Patriotic men and women of principle who work for Donald Trump face a moral dilemma; that is, they are confronted with a set of choices none of which are fully satisfactory and all of which are equally objectionable.
To reprise my Aug. 9, 2016, pre-election column, America’s perilous situation “is no longer about politics and policies, or liberal versus conservative, or Donald against Hillary, or Republicans against Democrats…
“It’s about something much more fundamental: whether one of America’s two great political parties will have the courage and respect for democracy to undo what now lies revealed as a colossal and potentially devastating miscalculation: the nomination of a presidential candidate psychologically and intellectually unfit for any public office.
“That could not have been fairly said of any previous major party candidate….But we have never had a candidate with Donald Trump’s combination of severe personality disorders and arrested emotional development; who publicly and regularly demonstrates and even boasts about his disregard for the most basic…conventions of a public life.”
Today, a year and a month later, nothing has changed except that candidate Trump is now president. He still can neither discipline himself nor accept advice. His array of character flaws is hardening, day-by-day, the natural divisions within the country; any major policy aspirations are mired in a bog of indecision, backbiting, conflicts of interest and his treating members of Congress as subordinates.
And that’s only eight months into a 48-month term. Something must change.
Trump and many other business people long have argued that government “should be run like a business.” In any public business that one can imagine, a CEO who openly chastised subordinates, routinely lied about provable factual matters, in eight months turned over eighty percent of the core team that he or she appointed, violated the fundamental principles of the business, disdained its traditions and was unable to accomplish the company’s most basic goals would very quickly be forced by the board of directors to “pursue other interests.”
In our governing system, impeachment requires commission of an actual crime, but the majority congressional party can’t even summon the courage to condemn publicly Trump’s most outrageous acts and words. Removal via the Twenty-fifth Amendment has never been tested and requires initiation by the vice-president. It also requires a two-thirds vote of each house.
Are there other options? If you worked for Trump but were alarmed by his actions and words and concerned for the nation’s future, what could you do?
— Resign, as many people are urging major appointees to do. Would that help or would that be abandoning the nation’s best interests to salve your own conscience? Would allowing Trump to fill your post with a sycophant be ethically or practically sound? Could he find a competent replacement?
— Stay and fight the good fight internally and hope for the best. Could that produce a relatively better outcome, assuming that Trump cannot change, or would it simply postpone an inevitable collapse?
— Gather a large group of like-minded appointees and privately confront him with the possibility of massive defections. If you intervene, you must be explicit about the bottom line: that he change his ways and heed your advice. Or, perhaps, that he himself resign.
No easy options or unambiguous choices exist. But choose we must; the status quo is unacceptable.
Davis Merritt, Wichita journalist and author, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org