Trump is leading a revolution that is destroying AmericaRev. Jesse Jackson Sr. / December 26, 2019
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The House has indicted the president for abuse of his office — trying to enlist a foreign government to intervene in our election by announcing an investigation of his potential opponent in the upcoming presidential race and for obstruction of justice in his extreme efforts to block the congressional investigation of his abuses. This is an indictment focused, for simplicity sake, on a single course of action and its cover-up. In fact, the challenge posed by Trump is far greater than that.
Trump is leading a counterrevolution against the America that is, and the America that will be. He does so by savagely attacking American institutions and by unrelenting lies designed to produce a cocoon of misinformation — an alternative reality — to con his ardent supporters. Trump has scorned the Constitution and its tripartite division of power. He scorns the Congress, both the Democratic House and the Republican Senate, ignores its subpoenas, dismisses its powers, and holds himself and his administration immune from its oversight.
He traduces the courts, appointing right-wing activist judges while impugning the motives of any justice that rules in ways he does not like. He floods the courts with lawsuits, many groundless, to delay and to avoid accountability both personally and as president. He abuses the press, accusing them of being the enemy of the people and of spreading “fake news,” even as he retweets and recycles false conspiracy theories and big lies. He has dismantled the interagency national security process, upended American policy — often with the sole apparent motive of reversing anything President Barack Obama accomplished — while abusing allies, his own appointees and the career professionals with sudden reversals of policy and pronouncement. He has clearly decided that the presidency is above the law, as well as beyond the reach of Congress and courts.
While I, and many other reformers, agree with some of Trump’s stated goals — to bring the “endless wars” to a close, to transform our trading policy, to pressure the Federal Reserve to keep its foot off the brakes of the economy without clear evidence of rising inflation — Trump’s imperious and impetuous actions do more to discredit those goals than to serve them. In other areas — most significantly in the existential threat posed by catastrophic climate change — Trump has abandoned the most important responsibility of the president to defend the nation’s security. His conscious political strategy is to foster division, inflaming racial, gender and other divides. This has fed an already rising tide of hatred that is breeding more violence in this land.
Rather than signing the bipartisan immigration reform that he had previously agreed to support, he chose instead to preserve the contention rather than to move to solve the challenge. The result of this reckless and ruthless course is a country ever more divided. Trump clearly has cemented the support of about 40 percent to 45 percent of the American people. That support has cowed Republican legislators, senators and representatives, who now rise to defend behavior that they know is dangerous and policies that violate their previously cherished conservative principles — from free trade to support for allies to presidents serving as moral examples. Now, as senators gear up for holding what looks to be a sham trial on the impeachment charges brought from the House, they might pause for reflection. For many, this vote may be their last historic vote, one which will help define their legacy. All face constituents — Trump’s so-called “base” — who demand that they support the president no matter what he does.
This is a test of leadership. True leaders don’t follow opinion polls, they mold opinion. They do not allow the fervent few to drown out the call of their conscience. They recognize the obligations of party, but also the call of honest patriotism, of acting in moments of historic decision for the sake of the country. They realize that history will hold them to account, as well as their own children and grandchildren. Trump’s minions are demanding abject loyalty. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has already confessed that he is taking his clues from the White House. Before bowing to that pressure, senators should pause, reflect, look in the mirror and probe their conscience. Who are they? What are they prepared to stomach?
Jesse L. Jackson Sr. is founder and president of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition.