In the post-Trump era, the ‘enablers’ must be shamed

May 16, 2019 1:12 pm

Donald Trump speaking to supporters in Phoenix in August 2016. The president won’t be at Trumpstock, but a Trump impersonator is scheduled. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Meet the enablers.

If you’re a typical Trump-era news junkie, you’ll likely recognize the names on this list: National Security Advisor John Bolton, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Senior Trump Advisor KellyAnne Conway, Attorney General William Barr and Fox News Host Sean Hannity. And let’s not forget Arizona’s own: former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Gov. Doug Ducey, State GOP Chair Kelli Ward and Sen. Martha McSally.

Admittedly, these are handful among the droves who’ve volunteered to serve as Trump’s enablers: the people who make it possible day-in and day-out for the president to pursue his chaotic, ill-conceived and criminally-inspired agenda, an agenda that constitutes the greatest domestic threat to our democratic way of life in modern history.

Joe McCarthy’s communist witch hunts and Richard Nixon’s attempt to cover-up the Watergate scandal pale in comparison to measure of corruptness Trump has brought to the halls of the White House in the past two years. If President Nixon’s crimes were a “cancer on the White House,” as his White House lawyer John Dean famously described it, what Trump is perpetrating is more akin to an Ebola-like contagion that’s eating away at the core of our democracy.

This isn’t meant to be alarmist. Nor is it partisan-inspired. It’s a necessary accounting of the toxic and crippling impact that Trumpism is having on everything America has struggled to stand for during its existence.

No doubt, we’ve fallen short of our ideals before. But the destructive fallout of this president’s actions is unprecedented. A day rarely passes in which Trump does not challenge, denigrate or outright assault our nation’s foundational principles and the intrinsic worth and purpose of our most hallowed institutions.

Despite the president’s baseless claims to the contrary, America’s free press is not “the enemy of the people;” people have a right to practice the religion of their choice (and, yes, that includes Muslims and Jews); our three branches of government are co-equal, meaning he cannot behave like a dictator; all people, no matter their race, nationality, ethnic origin or sexual identity deserve to be treated equally; and no one, not even the president of the United States of America, is above the rule of law.

One of the things that makes Trump such a threat is that his entire approach to life is driven by his insatiable lust for wealth and power, and a seemingly sociopathic inability to empathize with other human beings – unless they’re members of his immediate family.

“James, you’re being ridiculous. You make it sound as if Trump could single-handedly destroy America?”

No, he can’t. He needs enablers, thousands, if not millions, of compliant, self-serving co-conspirators to make that happen. And if the Russians want to lend a hand as well, Trump’s already proven he’s more than willing to accept their help.

The question for those who still believe in the value and pursuit of “a more perfect union” is whether there are enough of us who are willing to stop Trumpism cold in its tracks. Not by applying Trump’s tactics, but by reinforcing the same institutional safeguards that led to the eventual rebuke of Sen. McCarthy, Nixon’s forced resignation, and the impeachment by the House of Representatives of President Bill Clinton (though he was later acquitted of all charges by the U.S. Senate).

For now, barring a so-called smoking-gun revelation, Trumpism will have to be quashed at the polls in 2020. In the meantime, it’s going to take a herculean effort to minimize the damage Trump will certainly do between now and next November.

Unfortunately, the most long lasting and debilitating effect of this presidency is the tens of millions of blindly devoted followers who make up between 80 and 90 percent of Republicans, and at least 35 percent of the country’s voting-age electorate. Short of Trump shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, these folks have proven they’re willing to follow him to the edge of the cliff – and more than a few are ready to jump at his command.

While I’m convinced Trump will lose his bitter and divisive bid for reelection, I shudder to think where America will be on the day after the election. How do we begin to mend the deep and corrosive rift created by Trump’s soulless, winner-take-all style of politics?

The optimist in me wants to believe a reinvigorated and even more egalitarian brand of democracy will win the day and leave Trump and his army of enablers publicly shamed, à la Nixon and McCarthy, for having come down on the wrong side of history.

That’s the outcome I want not out of vindictiveness, but as an example of one more harsh lesson learned by a proud nation and its people on how to march back into the light after our latest journey into darkness.

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James E. Garcia
James E. Garcia

James E. Garcia is a Phoenix-based journalist, playwright and communications consultant. As a journalist, he has worked as a reporter, columnist, editor and foreign correspondent. He was the first Latino Affairs correspondent for KJZZ, and the first Latino editor of a major progressive news weekly in the U.S., The San Antonio Current. James has taught creative and non-fiction writing, ethnic studies, theater, literature and Latino politics at ASU. The founder and producing artistic director of New Carpa Theater Co., James is the author of more than 30 plays, including the upcoming “The Two Souls of Cesar Chavez.”