Democracy at Stake: Trump’s Internal Opposition

Cy Burchenal

Internal opposition to the Trump administration, as described by the September 5 editorial anonymously published in the New York Times, is both terrifying and counterproductive. It undermines legal popular opposition, validates allegations of conspiracy, and sets undemocratic precedence in terms of a president’s ability to have their orders followed. This is not an endorsement of the Trump administration; I wish to see the policies of the current president repealed or voted down. I want the political philosophy of the Trump administration to be discredited. I am philosophically, ethically, and politically opposed to the conduct of the Trump administration, but the actions of the anonymous editorialist cannot possibly be deemed acceptable.

Blowback to the policies of the Trump administration has been felt at every level of government. The Democratic Party has fought hard to push back on a variety of misguided Trump policies. But opposition to the Trump administration must come from these sources, or any other legal avenue. The tireless actions of the actual resistance to Trump yields legitimate returns through means that do not legitimize the insane ravings of a damaged mind.

A huge element of Trumpian philosophy is the idea of a conspiracy orchestrated against him by various actors. He rails incessantly against the Clintons, the Obamas, congressional Democrats, the media, and even his own cabinet. In Trump’s mind the failed policies of his administration are always the fault of others. Any political failures are simply the result of sabotage or improper execution by others. The editorial published anonymously in the New York Times validates Trump’s allegations of a conspiracy against him. If this particular conspiracy was indeed true, it stands to reason that Trump’s belief in other conspiracies against him would likely be strengthened. By the same logic, if the actions of the author of this anonymous editorial are illegal, then there is now a factual basis for the fear-mongering criticism Trump has leveled at others throughout his campaign and presidency. This incident will only heighten Trump’s profound paranoia and distrust of his own cabinet, a cabinet notable for having the highest turnover rate of high-ranking positions in modern history.

Finally, the lasting damage done by the author of this editorial is potentially beyond estimation. The United States is not a perfect democracy, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it has worked well for centuries. The authority of the presidency must be carefully preserved. If the elected president of the United States issues an order, ignoring that order or actively doing the opposite establishes patterns, and dangerous ones at that. Worse yet, civil-military relations may be damaged by the Trump administration. If Trump were to issue an order to Secretary of Defense James Mattis that is ignored, the critically important balance of civilian government having authority over the military is damaged, potentially irreparably.

If persons in the Trump administration feel ethically unable to continue working in the administration, then they have a moral responsibility to quit their job and testify before Congress as to why they believe the president should not be in a position of power. Staying in the administration and covertly undermining select policies while enabling others is cowardly and undemocratic.