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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump on a Fateful Day

Eliot A. Cohen writes at The American Interest:
Donald J. Trump has repeatedly revealed himself as a lying, crooked, narcissistic ignoramus, incapable of generous thoughts or deeds, indeed, incapable of seeing beyond himself at all. The idea of that man living in Lincoln’s house is nauseating.
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[Underlings] will tell themselves that they have gone to work for the man because they think they can affect him; they will learn—or more likely, their friends and associates on the outside will observe—that actually, he is affecting them. Very few will resign in outrage, because the compromises to their integrity will creep up on them. As Sir Thomas More puts it in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons,they will be like the man who, having taken an oath, is “holding his own self in his own hands, like water” and when he opens his fingers, “needn’t hope to find himself again.” They will try to open their fingers just a little bit, and it will not work: the water will cascade out. Many of them will never find themselves again, but will instead spend the rest of their careers making excuses for things that once upon a time they understood were inexcusable.
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And the rest of us? “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” goes the old saw, and it is truer than ever. Churchill, as always, best laid out the right frame of mind. “Never give in. Never, never, never. Never yield in any way, great or small, large or petty, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
The age of Trump will pass. The institutions will contain him and the laws will restrain him if enough people care about both, and do not yield to fear of him and whatever leverage he tries to exert from his mighty office. He may summon up internet trolls and rioters, attempt to sic the IRS or the FBI on his opponents, or simply harass individuals from the Oval Office. But political history tells us that would-be authoritarians usually come to unpleasant ends, their moments pass, and the mobs that cheered them on will come to denounce them just as vehemently.