“Almost Invariably, Moral Authority Seems To Be Encased In A Frail Body”

If Donald Trump fails during his Presidency to undermine U.S. democracy in a meaningful way, it won’t be because of any reconsideration on his part. Sociopaths don’t change at 70. It will have to be saved from him.

Americans of courage and decency are needed in every quarter to defend our institutions and demand truth and facts. Criticism and resistance must be normalized from the start. Democracy is a fragile thing, especially in a system such as ours which grants the President outsize powers, assuming that person will be basically decent and essentially sane. But even citizens shining a light on immoral behavior may not prevent Trump from using the devices of the office to grip and choke liberty.

It’s possible through his own incompetence and avarice he may lose the support of enough of those who voted for him, already a minority, and that the Washington opportunists will decide they’ve had enough. Even though his nihilistic campaign was anything but business as usual, his demise could be one of mundane politics. It could be a relatively quiet fall.

No one should depend on that, however. We must rely on ourselves and each other.

Two excerpts follow about the necessity of bravery in the immediate future.

From “The Threat of Moral Authority,” Masha Gessen’s New York Review of Books piece:

New York, January 2017. The very large, very loud American president-elect unleashes a Twitter fury on an older, smaller man who can and does appear vulnerable in public. The man, Congressman John Lewis, has vowed to boycott the president-elect’s inauguration. Donald Trump attacks Lewis as a man of words, not action—and, as some Americans watch in shocked disbelief while others surely applaud, continues to hound Lewis long after Trump’s usual Twitter attention span would have run out.

In his now familiar way, Trump has come across as clueless, as though he doesn’t know who Lewis is, which district he represents, and more important, what history he represents. But his instincts are guiding him into a confrontation that is hardly new: it is a response that has occurred over and over when an autocratic leader is challenged by the voice of moral authority.

Almost invariably, moral authority seems to be encased in a frail body—perhaps because it takes years and decades, and risk and injury, to amass. Yet the words of certainty, spoken softly, pose a threat to power secured through the conventional means of force and title. No voice other than that of John Lewis could have called forth the number of congressmen—fifty-nine at last count—now planning to boycott the inauguration.

Trump has a keen sense of danger, and though he could never put it into words, he understands the threat Lewis represents. Autocratic power requires the degradation of moral authority—not the capture of moral high ground, not the assertion of the right to judge good and evil, but the defeat of moral principles as such.•

From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Hollywood Reporter:

Never before in modern history have we had a president-elect so ill-informed, ill-tempered, irrational and ill-equipped to deal with the major issues that face this country. The counterintuitive election of Donald Trump has left a lot of political pundits from both parties throwing up their hands, saying, “All we can do is hope for the best.” But as Mark Wahlberg’s character in Deepwater Horizon warns the British Petroleum executives ignoring the oil platform’s numerous problems right before it bursts into flames: “Hope is not a strategy.” And based on the political appointments and nominations Trump has recently made, people of color have little reason to be hopeful. That’s why it’s especially important over the next four years that black celebrities step up and take stances to give voice to those in the black community who will not be heard by the incoming administration. Given that the country is in the throes of a civil rights backlash that threatens to undo the progress we’ve fought so hard to attain, we have to be fearless and relentless in speaking up at every opportunity.

Trump’s selection of Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General sends a clear message of where we stand. The guardian of equal justice will be a man who is accused of several acts of racism, including describing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as “un-American.” Worse, though, are Trump’s transparent attempts to appear diverse. A quick look at two of the black faces that Trump parades on television as proof of the diversity of his entourage is actually evidence of his using black shills to distract us from his paternalistic policies to dismantle civil liberties for people of color, women, the LGBT community, Muslims and immigrants. The selection of Ben Carson as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), with its $47 billion budget, continues Trump’s wave of choosing completely unqualified people to head important agencies crucial to addressing serious problems such as racial inequity and poverty. It’s like picking Elmer Fudd to run NASA. Carson may be a brilliant surgeon, but he has no understanding of the complexities of government and bureaucracies that make them work.•

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