Like all other Americans right now, I don’t know if Candidate Trump broke the law or if President Trump betrayed the American people in some egregious way.
He might have. He could have. If Candidate or President Trump broke the law or betrayed the American people, we should know. I want to know.
So far as I can tell, there’s been more reporting on reports of allegations against President Trump than on actual evidence, which is not very helpful.
I also don’t know who the “unidentified” intelligence bureaucrats are revealing private calls of American citizens. According to Reuters, “the people who described the contacts…said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the [Trump] campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far.”
Well, it’s nice that bureaucrats cleared things up with the journalists at Reuters. But who are these bureaucrats? Why do they know what was discussed by private American citizens on private phone calls a year ago? And why are they discussing those private discussions with journalists at Reuters?
Does the United States government provide bureaucrats with secret access to private phone calls of private citizens so that bureaucrats can run to the media after eavesdropping on private conversations?
Are bureaucrats supplementing their government salary with checkbook journalism, being paid by media outlets for information gathered while working for government intelligence agencies? Did these bureaucrats break the law or betray the American people?
Americans don’t know. But we should.
What I do know is that we now live in a post-Constitutional United States. Our politics long ago ceased to be Constitutional politics. Our politics no longer revolves around great public debates over whether a particular government policy is Constitutional or not. Most American today don’t even bother to read their own Constitution. “Constitutional” has become synonymous with “a policy I personally like” and “un-Constitutional” is now synonymous with “I don’t like it!”
Our great public debates, now, are over who will control whom, how much will be confiscated from whom, and who will get some of the booty after politicians and bureaucrats divvy it up and take their cut.
This means that our politics tends to be driven by those who offer the biggest promises and those who are best at flattering others. Which is another way of saying that ours has become a politics of demagoguery.
Think of recent Presidents. None were elected because of their devotion to the United States Constitution or the principles enshrined in it.
- Long before perjuring himself, Bill Clinton celebrated “redefining the immutable ideals that have guided us from the beginning.” How can one be devoted to immutable Constitutional ideals if one’s purpose is to redefine them? In his First Inaugural Address, he suggested that by his words alone he could “force the Spring” to replace Winter, a claim even the greatest ancient demagogues were reluctant to make.
- George W. Bush identified four C’s as the central themes of his 2000 campaign: Civility, Compassion, Courage, and Character. All meant to be achieved by means of government power, programs, spending, and debt. What fifth C was conspicuously missing? The Constitution. Nary a mention of it.
- Many Americans voted for Barack Obama because he promised Hope. And Change. No one voted for him because of his demonstrated devotion to the United States Constitution.
And Donald Trump? Some of his campaign promises, if they become action items, can serve the cause of Constitutional government. Draining the swamp of the federal bureaucracy, repealing the greatest policy of socialism ever implemented in American history, and better means of keeping foreign terrorists and murderers out of the United States, align with the broad principles of the Constitution, broadly understood.
Yet it’s far from clear that President Trump, or his supporters, or his critics, understand or care about the connection between these policy goals and the Constitution. Ironically, the modern President who seems most to want to advance a quasi-pro-Constitutional agenda seems the most uninterested in and unfamiliar with the Constitution.
THE SHALLOW WATER OF DEMAGOGIC POLITICS
So our politics will likely continue in the direction of demagoguery. And demagogic politics are always personal politics. People flock to or oppose a demagogue because they like or dislike his personality. The politics of demagoguery aren’t deep. There are no principles involved. No ideas. No abstractions. It’s shallow water.
No matter what these investigations reveal, I worry. Whether evidence of wrongdoing is discovered or not, I predict that political opponents of Trump will become more hardened while political supporters of Trump will double-down. And they will denounce each other more viciously than ever. The political gap in the United States will continue to grow.
Why? Because we are beyond evidence. We certainly are beyond Constitutional ideas and principles. Private property? Equal protection of the laws? Individual freedom? No one cares. Give a shout out that makes others feel good, assert that everyone has a right to everything they want, promise the moon—to be paid with other people’s money, of course!—and you could be the next demagogue of the day.
Meanwhile, the Constitution rests peacefully as a relic from the past, something to be viewed in the prism of thick glass as gawkers shuffle through the National Archives in D.C. We are now in the post-Constitutional politics of demagoguery, after all, guided by little other than which political celebrity of the moment we happen to like or dislike.