We know how Trump Got into Office. How does he remain in office?
The Lion King is one of the most popular movies of all time. The end of the movie is a powerful scene in which the son of the Lion King, who had left the kingdom, but has now returned, ascends to the throne.Uplifting music follows him as he walks to the top of a bluff where his queen awaits. There he holds his son aloft to the kingdom who cheers his return to power. This scene stirs us. We all feel that the rightful heir has assumed his place of power. That is, not only do we like the idea of kings, we have a deep-seated feeling that that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
How could someone like Trump get into power and why would people support him once he was in office? The first question has rational answers.There was a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction with the status quo so people demanded change and Trump promised change. That part is understandable. Since Trump assumed power, though, he has needed the support of enough civilians to keep the country running.
Now we know how he retains his power. We see it happening around us. A number of different factions have coalesced behind him. These parties see his rise to power as an opportunity. The Republican Party sees a chance to advance their agenda of tax cuts and deregulation.The right-wing news media sees an opportunity to manipulate their leader into doing their bidding—ridding the country of illegal immigrants, establishing law and order, overturning Roe verses Wade. Others are convinced that if they back Trump, they will be rewarded. He makes it clear that anyone who attacks him, or tries to undermine him, will pay a price. He will exact vengeance on all those who oppose him and reward all those who do his bidding. He will demand and get loyalty and obeisance.
In addition, many of us, despite the American stereotype of independence, want to be told what to do. I once took a class in Shakespeare at University of Massachusetts. There were about twenty students. The professor was a terrible teacher. She would stand in front of our little group, read from the bard’s plays and then explain what she had just read. After each class, a number of us would meet and complain. I decided I would bring our concerns to the fore. In class I raised my hand, stood up and asked the professor if she would consider introducing a little variety into our weekly meetings Might we have some class discussions or group presentations? She was taken aback. “What do the rest of you think?” she asked. A student sitting in front raised her hand. “I like the class the way you run it,” she said. “You know much more than we do.” The next week the professor told us she had thought about what I suggested and concluded that class discussions would just be “pooling our ignorance.” No changes were made.
I taught for a number of years at a private, Catholic high school. Like many independent schools there were problems with financing. When the headmaster dragged his feet on making changes, the Board retired him. They brought in a charismatic educator from New Jersey. During interviews he talked about his desire to work together with us collaboratively. Yet as soon as he arrived he began asserting his authority. First, he had a ceremony in the auditorium to celebrate his installment complete with robes and bagpipes. Then he conducted meetings with all of us ostensibly asking our input. Soon after that he put policies in place that had nothing to do with anything any of us had suggested. A number of faculty realized that the way to get ahead was to flatter him and do his bidding. These faculty members were promoted and rewarded. Anyone who questioned him was harassed into leaving.
Sarah Kendzior who has studied authoritarian regimes, points out that Trump has all the characteristics of an autocrat. It’s all about him. The Presidency provides a springboard to make money for himself and his family. Anyone who questions him is attacked. Those who fawn over him are rewarded. The longer he remains in power, the more he consolidates that power, and no matter what crimes he commits or has committed, the less likely it is that he will be removed.
By now, Trump has surrounded himself with sycophants. People like Rudi Giuliani, happy to be in front of the cameras again, tell us Trump is above the law. He has the right to pardon himself and anyone else. Unless you believe in the divine right of kings, and Trump is our divine king, this is a ridiculous idea.
Every day we witness Trump obstructing justice by attempting to undermine the investigations against him. We see him selling out the country for personal gain. We listen to him attack anyone who questions him. We watch as he pardons law breakers to send a message to the criminals who have worked for him. Every day Trump is in power is a bad day for democracy.