On the anniversary of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States, many Americans likely woke up downright dumbfounded. It has been an eventful 365 days under the most controversial, unconventional President in recent memory. The occasion undoubtedly is satisfying for supporters of the President, but Democrats are not alone in their dissolution — if no one else, Anthony Scaramucci is likely in tow.
In 2016, Republican leadership all but scoffed at then-candidate Donald Trump. He was considered great television to be sure, but if taken seriously, his authoritarian tilt was unethical and ill-suited for Republicans who valued their brand as the freedom-loving, small-government alternative.
Entering Year Two, the tension between the President and the Party has only grown with time. Add to the mix, Steve Bannon, the Russian investigation, good old-fashioned bigotry and the result is truly dangerous game of musical chairs, in which Republicans remind us of Democrats of old, and Democrats behave more like Republicans used to. In a two-party system such as ours, when the President of the Right rebuffs ideology, the Left inevitably moves right — knocking the GOP out of their long-held position and forcing them to reclaim it stronger, or betray their own values.
Trump’s Subpar Military Etiquette
For Republicans, national defense has always been revered as the highest form of patriotism, and consider a strong military essential to America’s vitality. Even Democrats concede that, hence they regularly advocate for greater financial compensation and benefits for servicemen and veterans. Hence both parties regularly concede to federal budget increase necessary for training and supplies critical to military operations.
Quite the contrary, in 2016 as a candidate, Trump was decidedly less than supportive and impressed with certain veterans. His degrading insult toward Senator John McCain’s history as a prisoner of war was met with disgust and contempt across party lines. As President, many expected such sentiments would change, but if year one was is any indication, it’s doubtful.
In October, when placing a call to the widow of the late 25-year old army Sergeant LaDavid Johnson, President Trump proved to be once again, insincere. Widow Myesha Johnson told Morning Joe that the President “didn’t even remember his name.” Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL) released a statement to the public that Trump fell far short of reverence and decency, in his call to Johnson. Reportedly the President was short and callous when he reportedly told Johnson that her husband “must’ve known what he signed up for.”
The President defended his tone and sincerity in response to Wilson’s allegations, but no matter who you believe in this incident, Trump’s overall grasp of the magnitude of the ultimate sacrifice is unclear. Flashback a bit to 2016 when Trump criticized the appearance of the parents of late Captain Humayun Khan at the DNC Convention. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was among many Republicans to push back at Trump, stating: “All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services,” that he joins the Khans and other families who believe Trump’s comments to be “simply contrary to American values.”
Overall, it’s an odd while encouraging thing to witness the Trump Effect penetrate mainstream circles of influence. For example, liberal celebrities, like film icon Whoopi Goldberg and Rapper Eminem were frontrunners in condemnation for the President’s perceived apathy in 2017. At one point, Trump admitted guilt about not serving in the Vietnam war, and for having received several draft deferrals — but he never apologized for his treatment of the Johnson or Khan family.
Trump’s (Attempt) to Ban Transgender Patriots
Then in July, the President announced via twitter that the U.S. military could not continue to allow transgender people to serve; he vaguely cited costly medical services and workplace ‘disruption’ as reasons for the change. The directive would completely ban all new transgender people from enlisting, and terminate the military service we currently receive from transgender people.
Republican Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Richard C. Shelby (Alaska) were among any to issue statements calling the President’s decision into question. Hatch made the moral argument that Trump “[shouldn’t] be discriminating against anyone. Transgender people are people.” In addition, Dan Sullivan (AK) told the Huffington Post, “I support high standards, but if you can meet those standards, we shouldn’t care who you are.”
A frequent critic of the President’s Agenda is Republican Senator Susan Collins (ME), who took things a step further. For the anniversary of 9/11, she introduced a bipartisan amendment to protect transgender service members from President Trump’s plan to ban them from the military. “We should be expressing our gratitude,” the Senator urged.
RAND National Defense Research Institute conservatively estimates 6,500 transgender people serve in our military, and that less than 0.5% would potentially seek gender transition related treatment. Legally, this has since become a non-issue since federal judges found the ban “capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified.” Politically however, the ink has dried.
Sh*tholes & Civil Rights
The President’s America First platform has had some disputable consequences for race relations, to say the least. The increasing support for DREAMers and DACA, judicial pushback on travel bans and widespread support of the NFL’s #TakeAKnee all prove that many Americans view themselves more as world citizens than solo actors. Still, they all oppose the President’s agenda, and his unhinged rhetoric carries disturbing prejudice sentiments calling into question his ultimate motivation.
In the past, past Presidents Obama and W. Bush performed volunteer work to honor Dr. King on the day dedicated to the activist. President Trump played golf to honor him. It seems far-fetched to expect such a tradition to resonate with the President, but few would have guessed he’s deviate in a polar opposite direction; Trump spent much of January making headlines for exceedingly racist and heartless comments he allegedly made during a bi-partisan immigration policy meeting, where he singled out African nations and Haiti.
Well-known activist and descendent of Dr. King, Martin Luther King III, told CNN that he believes President Trump’s language was vulgar and demeaning, he also labeled it “extremely racist.”
Of course, the President was not nearly as rattled by his comments as Republicans were. For the past week the Party leadership have been noticeably uncomfortable addressing the President’s comments. Some came out in full force condemnation, others claiming to be skeptical but apologetic all the same.
Unable to comply, Republican Rep. Mia Love (Utah), the daughter of Haitian immigrants, told CNN “yes” when asked if she thinks his comments were racist. Georgia’s Sen. Johnny Isakson plead the fifth while adding his two-sense stating: “I did not hear it, but if it’s true, he owes the people of Haiti and all mankind an apology. That is not the kind of statement the leader of the free world ought to make, and he ought to be ashamed of himself.”
Politically, the strategy is clear: Stand by the president at all costs, even if you must operate independent of common sense to do so.
“No, no, I’m not a racist,” Trump told reporters on Sunday. “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.”
Nonetheless, this is certainly a low point for the Republican Party, historically nicknamed the ‘Party of Douglass’ and ‘Party of Abolitionists’. It seems with each passing racist (or, ‘racially insensitive’) controversy, the GOP continues to lose its vigor. Consider that after Trump said there were good people on “both sides” of the Charlottesville white supremacy rally, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) waited nine days to comment on it. And when he did, he made it clear that he was going to move on.
As to President’s ‘sh*thole rant,’ Ryan said plainly, the comments were “very unfortunate, unhelpful.” I predict optimistically that will summarize Trump’s first year in office much the same.