Every man to ever hold the office of the presidency has had his own unique style of maintaining it. Each one of them, from former President George Washington to former President Barack Obama, has found a different way of filling the chair. President Donald Trump’s relatively new presidential habits — underhandedly banning religions from entering the country and hanging up on foreign leaders in moments of dissatisfaction — could be considered simply unorthodox if they weren’t so blatantly, perhaps irreversibly, destructive. Millennials, when they inherit national politics, must demand that a political culture of intellectual and rational centrism reclaim the brunt of national politics, especially the executive branch.
The vast majority of our national policymaking is quickly becoming a constant struggle against the Tea Party, the alt-right and other radical ideologies. That is the real difference between Trump and other unusual, or perhaps relatively inexperienced, presidents — not the fact that he has adopted new methods or unpopular policies, but rather that those methods, policies and the man himself are succeeding in placating his supporters but failing to aid the American people.
Yes, he is delivering on many of his campaign promises. The swamp has been drained, whatever that must mean to the average Trumpian, by appointing the most under-qualified executive cabinet in American history (save for James ‘Mad Dog’ Maddis and maybe, hopefully, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson); the “scary” Muslims and (maybe, from the looks of proposed legislation) the ungodly gays will be purged from society. If you voted for Trump because you hated some of your fellow Americans, great! They’re suffering. Just as Trump is (still) constantly tweeting, you won.
It is not the platform nor the ideology that stands in danger at this moment — it is the presidency that is failing. The problem with Trump’s presidency is not that he is failing to deliver on his promises — it is that his promises are in direct opposition to what is good for the nation itself. The wishes of his zealots have overshadowed the needs of the nation.
Every president has sought to please the constituency that elected him. But Trump searches not for progressive or conservative solutions to the needs of Americans, but rather another high-five and the universal acceptance of his fantasy that he did, in fact, win the popular vote. Health care, women’s rights, environmental realities and freedom of speech and religion are subsumed to the ideological crusade of the far-right to reclaim their nation, a white Christian America that only ever existed through oppression. The presidency was once for the people, not just for whoever elected it.
Neither former Presidents Ronald Reagan nor John F. Kennedy sought to appease their constituents by abusing other Americans. The most sickening part of the contemporary administration is that it is doing exactly what it promised — and that following up on promises means taking partisan politics to an entirely new level of “us versus them” volatility. Suddenly, our government is not holding itself to a higher standard of public service. Our government is not seeking to serve at all, even while pursuing of its ideological goals. Instead, it has adopted a blanket bullying method to give undereducated and hateful supporter groups a moment of feel-good triumph — a touchdown in a football game. This Republican president has none of the respect for the presidency that characterized men like Dwight Eisenhower, Reagan or even George H.W. Bush.
Many tout the noble deed of seeking discourse with the other side, that the achievement of progress may only be sought through bipartisan conversation. But remember: There is no purpose of discussion between two parties who do not have the same common goal. Trump and his supporters have made it clear that they do not seek the best interests of all Americans, but rather the abuse and expulsion of those they disdain. It is not an ideology of policy or administration, but one of hatred.
There can be no negotiation with radical reactionaries who seek the abolition of civil rights, of a stable economy and of a sustainable physical environment. It is an ideology of destruction. Radical reactionaries will not respect your noble choice to give them a seat at the table, because they do not believe in the table at all. If we want to reclaim bipartisanship in U.S. politics, it will not mean negotiating with fascists. It will require centrists on both sides of the aisle to demand their parties maintain a conservative or progressive ideology in order to serve all Americans — and stop proliferating popular hatred.
Lily Vaughan is a sophomore majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” runs every Friday.