Donald Trump Has Broken the Constitution

Garrett Epps writing in The Atlantic:

American national leaders gain their legitimacy by competing in compliance with not merely the outward forms but the clear values of our Constitution—equal dignity, religious freedom and tolerance, open deliberation, and the rule of law. These values don’t bind Donald Trump; norms of decency do not apply; he shrugs off the very burden of fact itself. Like dictators of the Old World, he uses his mass media power to lie, to insult, to strip individuals of their dignity, to commit the grossest libels of religious and national groups, and to encourage persecution, torture, and public violence. He actively campaigns against any notions of racial, religious, and sexual equality. He threatens those who oppose him with the unchecked power of the state.

He is, in other words, a figure out of authoritarian politics, not the American tradition; and a democratic constitution that empowers such a leader has misfired badly.

I have written before of the decay that had set in among American democratic norms before Trump came along to hijack them—of a political system so hardened in hatred that it has become unable to provide in orderly fashion for the nation’s finances, that permits legislative bodies to hobble the courts, that evades the vital questions of war and peace the Constitution was created to address, that hides in plain sight the growth of mass surveillance and toxic secrecy in government. And I’ve noted that never before in American history has the nation fought a “war” that lasted 15 years, much less one against an unnamed enemy who can never be located entirely or fully defeated. Over a decade and a half of no-holds-barred politics and “enemy-within” panic, Americans drove their democracy as if it were an automobile with an oil leak, until the engine at last has seized up and the vehicle has crashed.