100 Days: Donald Trump is the Anti-American President
It was clear during the presidential campaign that Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” sloganeering was vacuous, pseudo-patriotic puffery. But, in classic Orwellian “double-speak” style, it did succeed in obscuring how Trump would take a mere 100 days to become the most anti-American president in US history.
The United States of America is a nation based on and bound together by a set of ideals. Prime amongst them is the cherished concept of the “American Dream”. By launching an assault on immigrants in the quintessential land of immigration, Trump has trampled all over the promise inscribed on the Statue of Liberty that “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” can come to the US, work hard and have an equal opportunity to achieve the good life.
With the exception of the 1% of the population who are Native Americans, all US citizens either came from elsewhere themselves or are the descendants of those who did.Through much pain and struggle, in many cases, to make America live up to its billing as the land of opportunity, these descendants of slaves andwaves of immigrants created the biggest, most successful melting pot the world has ever seen. As that great American, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now”.
Trump perverts these proud, fundamental principles of Americanism with his propagation of the view that America is not the sum of its ideals but an ethnicity. Crude and bigoted appeals to the white, conservative, Christian and male part of the population are far from a new phenomenon. But Trump’s cynical exploitation of a viewpoint that was being overcome is a revival of America at its worst.
Trump’s implicit assertions that women, blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, other immigrants and all who disagree with him (yes, even some white men) are, at best, lesser forms of American or, at worst, foreign enemies of the state are in absolute opposition to the constitutional principles of the United States of America.
Many patriotic Americans treasure their Constitution because of the liberty and equality it grants them. The fundamental element of the Constitution and strength of the US’s governing system is the “separation of powers” between the Presidency, Congress and Courts. This system was designed to protect America from tyranny, not least by enshrining the independent and impartial rule of law. By repeatedly denigrating judges and the processes of the courts, Trump is deliberately undermining this crucial pillar of the separation of powers.
no previous President has had such little respect for, or interest in, the institutional role of the Presidency
His latest outrage is a threat to break up the Ninth Circuit Court, which has blocked his attempt to impose a travel ban and withhold funds from “sanctuary cities” that protect the rights of immigrants. As renowned Public Policy Professor and former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich points out “one way dictators take over democracies is by threatening the independence of a nation’s courts”. By doing so, Trump is setting himself up as a would-be despot in a country that was formed and subsequently populated by people seeking to escape from them.
The famous First Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and the press is both exploited and abused by Trump. He exercises this right in a toxic fashion to spread falsehoods and abuse opponents. Simultaneously, he undermines the vital role of the press in holding the administration to account by repeatedly impugning their integrity and giving preference to favoured propaganda outlets over credible, fact-checked media organisations.
Trump’s tawdry conduct shows no respect for the exemplary role the President is supposed to play as the nation’s Head of State. It is a betrayal of America’s reputation around the world too. Various revered American presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan have adopted the “shining city upon a hill, with the eyes of all people upon us” imagery first adapted from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount by the early Governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop in 1630. Their successor, Trump, seems interested only in tarnishing that sheen.
He is not the first person to do so, of course. America has often betrayed its finest ideals. But its greatest successes have generally resulted from sticking closely to them. And no previous president has had such little respect for, or interest in, the institutional role of the Presidency. Trump in his first 100 days in the White House is trashing the fundamental principles upon which America is based. Rather than “Make America Great Again”, he appears intent on destroying what made it great in the first place and dragging it ever deeper into the mire.
About the author
Paul Knott began his working life in a hut on Hull's King George Dock before globetrotting for two decades as an unlikely British envoy. His "instructive and funny" (Alan Johnson MP) book about his experiences, "The Accidental Diplomat", is out now.
He is also the Chief Foreign Correspondent for the Sabotage Times and contributes to publications such as The Telegraph, Forty-20 and When Saturday Comes.
All that travel has failed to shift Paul's inherited old Labour instincts.
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