The President of the United States is not a victim. Someone should tell that to Kellyanne Conway.
“He actually gave up more money, more power, more prestige, more position than he will have,” Conway said to reporters on Friday. Hopefully, the incoming president has more reverence for the institution and the country he is about to lead than one might infer from Conway’s words. Donald Trump is not sacrificing “prestige” and “power” in becoming only the 44th person to guide the development of the most remarkable experiment in human history.
If Trump does harbor some nostalgia for the life he left behind, it is understandable. The president is endowed with immense power, but the Constitution also binds him. He is answerable to the laws he has sworn to execute faithfully. Though his fellow Republicans control the institutions that are tasked with checking his authority, the adversarial relationship between the courts, the Congress, and the White House is inherent. Each power center guards its influence and seeks to augment it at the expense of another. This is a zero-sum game.
Donald Trump will enter office the most unpopular and mistrusted new president of the modern age. Depending on the opinion poll you prefer, Trump’s approval rating ranges from 32 percent to 44 percent. He takes office while his campaign is under investigation by law enforcement and Congress for allegedly having inappropriate contact with Russian assets. This is uncharted territory.
Trump is on a very short leash; there is no room for error. Congressional Republicans will present a united face for now, while their preferred reforms hang in the balance. But Trump will have to perform in office if he is to grow his support. Just like any other president, Trump will be buffeted by events. He and his administration will have to navigate choppy waters and, if they fail in that charge, will be punished by voters for it. Trump’s first midterm election begins in earnest in just six months, and every midterm election since 2002 has not been kind to the incumbent president’s party.
None of this appears to have occurred to a cast of hyperventilating celebrities, professional activists, and overwrought adolescents who have convinced themselves they are the “resistance.” Some of them even have the temerity to call themselves “anti-fascists,” the implication being that their opponents are, necessarily, fascist. Just four days ago, some members of this amalgam of liberal LARPers were filmed planning operations to disrupt inauguration day by using caustic chemicals to clear out buildings. On the streets of Washington D.C., protesters smashed windows to communicate to us their youthful anxiety. We have yet to be treated to a lecture about how Democratic rhetoric about this “illegitimate” new president has created a climate of violence.
Who, one must ask oneself, is displaying less faith in the American system and republican values? Donald Trump and his advisors appear to recognize the constraints that are placed upon the president by law, tradition, and the simple physics of politics. Liberals who have the temerity to oppose authoritarianism by calling for martial law to prevent the peaceful and legitimate transition of power, meanwhile, have no faith in America’s 240-year-old traditions. With their actions, they betray that the “resistance” is merely a hollow, self-indulgent tantrum.
We take for granted the civic exceptionalism displayed on inauguration day. The peaceful surrendering of control of the military from one political faction to another is, in many cases, the exception to the rule—it is certainly a historical anomaly. Americans should celebrate this day and the miracle of American democracy, regardless of their partisan affiliation. The majority of Americans do not need that lecture. Our so-called “anti-fascist” agitators, however, most certainly do.