Americans’ acceptance of Trump’s behavior will be his vilest legacy

Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
Most of the 74,222,957 Americans who voted for Donald Trump's re-election - 46.8% of the vote in the 2020 presidential election - don't blame Trump for what he did to America.
Your acceptance of Trump's behavior will be his most hideous legacy.
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Almost forty years ago, political scientist James Q Wilson and criminologist George Kelling observed that a broken window left unattended in a community signals that no one cares if windows are broken there. The broken window is an invitation to throw more stones and break more windows.
The message: Do what you want here because others have done it and got away with it.
The broken window theory has led to Picayune and arbitrary law enforcement in poor communities. But America's most privileged and powerful have broken big windows with impunity.
In 2008 Wall Street nearly destroyed the economy. The street was saved while millions of Americans lost their jobs, savings and homes. But no great Wall Street executive has ever gone to jail.
For the past several years, the top Purdue Pharmaceuticals executives along with the Sackler family knew the dangers of OxyContin but did nothing. Wells Fargo Bank executives urged bank employees to defraud customers. Boeing executives hid the results of tests that showed the 737 Max Jetliner was unsafe. Police chiefs across America looked the other way as police under their command repeatedly killed innocent black Americans.
Again, they got away with it. These windows stay broken.
Trump has given the nation's highest office impunity and wielded a wrecking ball on the most precious window of all - American democracy.
Trump has given the nation's highest office impunity and wielded a wrecking ball on the most precious window of all - American democracy.
The message? A president can obstruct the investigation of special advisers into his misconduct, urge foreign officials to tarnish political rivals, fire inspectors who detect corruption, instruct the entire executive branch to reject subpoenas from Congress, flood the Internet with fake information about his opponents refusing to publish his tax returns, accusing the press of being "false media" and "enemies of the people", and making money from his presidency.
And he can get away with it. Almost half of the voters will even vote for his re-election.
A president can lie about the results of an election without evidence - and yet, according to polls, he is believed by the vast majority of those who voted for him.
Trump's most recent pardons broke double-glazed windows.
Not only has he broken the norm for presidential pardons - usually due to the petitioner's good behavior after conviction and conviction - but also pardoned people who broke windows themselves. In pardoning her, he did not hold her accountable for what she did.
This includes aides convicted of lying to the FBI and threatening potential witnesses in order to protect him. the father of his son-in-law, who pleaded guilty of tax evasion, witness manipulation, illegal campaign contributions and lies to the Bundestag Election Commission; Blackwater Security Forces convicted of murdering Iraqi civilians, including women and children; Border guards convicted of assaulting or shooting unarmed suspects; and Republican lawmakers and their aides found guilty of fraud, obstruction of justice, and campaign funding violations.
According to Wilson and Kelling, it's not just the size of the broken window that undermines the standards. It is society's willingness to look the other way. If no one is held accountable, the norms collapse.
Trump can face a flurry of lawsuits, possibly criminal charges, if he leaves office. But he's unlikely to go to jail. The president's immunity or self-pardon will protect him. In any event, the prosecution's discretion would almost certainly militate against the charges. No past president has ever been convicted of a crime. The mere possibility of criminal proceedings against Trump would spark a partisan brawl across the country.
Congress could seek to curtail the power of future presidents - strengthen control of Congress, strengthen Inspector General's independence, demand more financial disclosure, increase penalties for president aides who violate law, curtail pardon process, and so on.
But Congress - an equitable branch of government under the Constitution - cannot curb rogue presidents. And the courts don't want to deal with political issues.
The appalling reality is that Trump can get away with it. And if he gets away with it, he will have changed and degraded the norms of American presidents. The huge windows he broke are invitations to a future president to break even more.
Nothing will correct this unless or until an overwhelming majority of Americans realize and condemn what has happened.
In this article
Election Center 2020
Donald Trump
George L. Kelling
James Q. Wilson

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