WashPost gets it exactly right: ‘Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy’

That’s one of the best, clearest headlines I’ve read on an editorial in a while. It states the case cleanly and well.

I’ll just quote the first graf:

DONALD J. TRUMP, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew….

That is a wonderfully well-crafted bit of truth-telling, and every word of it is skilfully back up, in 13 more paragraphs that are just as good. You should go read the whole thing.

I continue to be astounded that some Democrats as well as Republicans are falling into the usual patterns of thinking this is a normal election, and that normal voting patterns should apply. Democrats speak in terms of Republicans ALL being as bad as Trump, and some perhaps worse. Republicans say he may be no gem, but he’s certainly no worse than Hillary Clinton, if not better.

They are all tragically, grotesquely wrong, and this editorial clearly states why.

The point of it is the same I’ve been making here about the unique horror that Trump represents.

Please read it, and take what it says to heart.

45 thoughts on “WashPost gets it exactly right: ‘Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy’

  1. Phillip

    Of course not all Republicans are “as bad as Trump.” But the GOP cannot be let off the hook, either: they are the party that gave him to us, and only in that party could someone like Trump get that far, for many historical reasons.

    As this very same WaPo editorial said, “The Republican Party has moved the lunatic fringe onto center stage, with discourse that renders impossible the kind of substantive debate upon which any civil democracy depends.”

    The GOP went through those retreats and processes of re-examination in the wake of the loss to Obama in 2012—but it was too late. It will take more than a loss by Trump to complete the transformation of the GOP into a modern, healthy conservative movement. The Republican party must be held accountable for bringing Donald Trump this close to the leadership of the free world: that means voting them out of the majority in the Senate and the House. Only a loss of historic magnitude for that party will create any lasting change. Also, I am hoping that the Libertarian party makes huge strides this election and begins to emerge as a real alternative, a new kind of healthier conservative option for our national politics.

  2. Phillip

    But Republicans with the courage to recognize Trump for what he is (like Ben Sasse of Nebraska) should be rewarded for their political courage. (Not applicable to those, though, who are just extremists of another stripe, like Ted Cruz).

  3. Assistant

    Ha, ha, that’s a great one, Brad. Trumps no shrinking violet, but the charge is a little late and misdirected.

    I’ve been rather bemused at some of the allegations leveled at Trump during the primaries, especially by Democrats, because the charges smacked of projection, accusing the Trumpster of wanting to do what their president was already doing: exercising executive power beyond the limits established by the Constitution.

    By this time two years ago Obama had already lost twenty cases before the Supreme Court unanimously, double the rate of his immediate predecessor and 25% greater than Clinton, and both of those were over an eight-year period. According to a 6/15/2015 article by Oliver Roeder over at fivethirtyeight.com, Obama’s overall record with the Supremes was the worst of any president since 1946.

    According to National Review’s Joel Gehrke, his administration’s losses include Judalang v. Holder, when the court faulted the Obama team for making an “arbitrary and capricious” attempt to rewrite the rules governing who is eligible for relief from deportation; Henderson ex rel. Henderson v. Shinseki, in which Obama’s lawyers argued wrongly “that the Department of Veterans Affairs can wholly ignore a veteran’s appeal of a VA regional office’s benefits ruling when the appeal was not filed within the 120-day deadline”; and Bond v. United States, in which the “DOJ argued that an international treaty gave Congress the power to create federal criminal law for wholly local conduct.”

    His first Attorney General was found in contempt of Congress for failing to provide documentation on the genius gun-walking program referred to as Fast and Furious. The President stated that no one in the White House played any role, then later withheld relevant documents by claiming Executive Privilege. That declaration resulted in a record number of injuries throughout the legal community as scholars of all stripes repeatedly slapped their own foreheads in amazement. But hey, it’s worked so far.

    This administration has used the IRS to target not only Tea-Party groups, but also individual contributors to Republican candidates and conservative causes.

    He’s the guy that wants to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to purchase abortifacients. In the auto bailout he twisted bankruptcy law to transfer assets from those legally entitled to them to auto unions and others no so entitled. He’s raising electricity rates so as to make wind and solar more competitive, ignoring what that did to Spain’s economy and how it’s crippling the German and British economies.

    He entered into an opaque and unenforceable agreement with Iran without the advice and consent of the US Senate in order to release assets and transfer billion$ to Iran. His Deputy National Security Advisor has bragged about how the administration snookered the media and pundits. At least it stopped Iran from testing missiles… Ooops!

    The DOJ runs Operation Choke Point, a thinly veiled ideological attack on industries the Obama administration doesn’t like, such as gun sellers and coal producers. It operates by using force, not due process. Heck, US District Judge Andrew Hanen would disbar DOJ attorneys who lied in his court if he could, but is trying to get the AG to give them ethics training when we all know they were just following orders.

    Or how about the DoJ’s program of reducing judgements from successful lawsuits by having the defendants pay favored citizen groups instead, reducing the fines by $2 for every $1 given to ideologically suitable allies.

    And you’re worried about Trump? Really? Okay, you can be worried, but please don’t ignore the breadth and depth this administration has sunk to.

    1. Mark Stewart

      And on top of all that, we have a black President!

      Sorry, but this was just dripping in South Speak. You think Obama had legislative/legal challenges, try Reagan, or Bush 43. It’s what happens to Presidential administrations. But this popular reaction (Buds distaste for 43 excluded) to Obama is of another order of magnitude. And that’s because of his race. Or more accurately, others’ reactions to his race.

      Sorry, but there it is.

      1. Doug Ross

        What percentage of Americans who dislike Obama would you say hold that view because of his race? You’re suggesting that those racists have enough power to limit what Obama has been able to “accomplish”?

        1. Bob Amundson

          There is no data to answer that question, but researchers are working on it. Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition (aka, implicit bias) – thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.

          The tool is the the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about.

          Google Project Implicit and IAT and take one of the tests.

            1. Bob Amundson

              Doug, I made a mistake in replying to you. I hope others may be interested. Implicit bias is real, whether you believe it or not.

              1. Bob Amundson

                “Belief bias is the tendency to judge the strength of arguments based on the plausibility of their conclusion rather than how strongly they support that conclusion.” – Wikipedia

                Belief bias indicates how we will tend to accept things that fit in with our belief systems.

                No one is immune, but being aware of that human trait helps.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Sure, everyone is biased. We need research to prove that? Then what? Is there some “cure”?

                  The best way to minimize bias is through education and experience. Is it better that I have spent the past 30 years travelling across the country and spending months at a time in various locations? Is it better that I immerse myself in other cultures and talk to people of different races about their lives and the challenges they have experienced? I’ve had some great discussions recently with my co-worker from Zimbabwe about her life both there and in the U.S.

                2. Bart


                  I did take the time from my busy schedule to take the test, the one on race. My score – neutral on race on all counts. I.E., the color of a person’s skin or race is of no concern to me. I say this in order to reply to Mark about Obama and his skin color or race if one prefers.

                  I took the time to read Obama’s book, “Dreams from my Father”, prior to his winning the nomination in 2007. It was obvious he would win and considering the choice in 2007 and the VP pick by McCain, it was a slam dunk, pardon the perhaps perceived racial reference to basketball where most team rosters are made up of predominantly black players.

                  After reading the book with an open mind, I reached one conclusion – it was a load of crap and filled with fantistical wishes and dreams that never happened. I did not believe for one moment the part when he described how he sat at his father’s grave and cried. The moment he reached an epiphany about his heritage.

                  The other point is that I do not dislike Obama as a person or his skin color, it matters not. What I don’t like is the conclusion I drew from his book is his massive narcissism and ego. While some is necessary for a person to be a leader, an excess is more harmful than helpful.

                  Unlike bud and his unhinged hatred for GWB personally and politically, I don’t hate Obama nor do I dislike him as a person, I just wouldn’t hire him to be the CEO of a corporation if I were the Chairman of the Board. Heck, I have some good friends I wouldn’t hire to run a lemonade stand.

                  And as Doug replied, everyone has some bias in their personal life. Anyone who declares otherwise is either delusional or not being intellectually honest. Like Doug, I have spent a lot of time travelling across the country and working in various locations. The common thread that runs through every place I have been is “tribalism”. It is evident in all aspects of life including occupation, education, social, and economic standing to list a few. The old adage, “birds of a feather flock together”, may sound trite but it is a truism some try to deny because it does not fit the narrative of their life they may be or feel uncomfortable with.

                  And like Doug, I take the opportunity when presented to interact with others who are not part of my “tribe” and learn as much as I can about who they are, what they believe, their life experiences, and the things that are different or separate us and try to do so without being intrusive on their privacy. The common thread I found was that if I present a hand in friendship with a smile and genuine interest, the response is almost always positive and I come away a better person and a better understanding of our differences. I prefer to know what they are and if I need to reconsider a position or not. Sometimes I agree with our differences, other times I do not. That is life.

                  A good example of tribalism is this blog. We have a sense of intellectual and social connection even with our differences and it is unique because we seldom if ever personally interact with each other. When someone comes along who threatens the civility of the tribal interaction and uses offensive commentary or is not civil to others even though some do push the envelope, the new person usually does not last very long or is asked to no longer participate unless their behavior is modified. Sometimes bud simply pisses me off with some of his comments and I suspect I do the same to him but I wouldn’t trade bud for anyone else because I understand and appreciate his passion and commitment to what he believes.

                3. Bob Amundson

                  Bart, I’m glad you took the test and came out neutral. For me, being aware of my bias allowed me to react to the photos in the “neutral” way.

                4. Bob Amundson

                  Mark’s comment was to one made by “Assistant.” I hope he takes the test, but I would not be surprised if he, too, scores neutral. Assume ability, and teach tolerance.

                5. Doug Ross

                  Well said, Bart. I always wonder about the people who see racism everywhere. Where do they work? Who are their friends? Where do they go to church? Are the demographics of the people they spend most of their time with diverse? I have friends who in the past twenty years have worked in the the same company, in the same location, lived in the same neighborhood, traveled on vacations to the same places every year. You think they are going to be biased in one way or another?

                  But am I biased in some way? Sure. We are all a product of our experiences. Here’s an example: two weeks ago I was walking down a main street in Pittsburgh shortly after dusk. I saw three young black males approaching me in the opposite direction. They were dressed in shorts, no shirts. I didn’t avoid them, didn’t do anything.to engage with them at all. But as I passed by, the third member of the group went out of his way to taunt me and yell “Hey, UNCLE!”. Now, I am 99.9% sure he was not my nephew. I just kept walking and didn’t engage them. But that’s a data point. A data point that will pop back in my head the next time I’m walking that same street and come across young black male teens. Is that bias on my part? Yes. Do I care that I am biased in that case? No.

                6. bud

                  Unlike bud and his unhinged hatred for GWB personally and politically, I don’t hate Obama nor do I dislike him as a person …

                  Unhinged? I perfectly hinged. Just to set the whole “hatred” thing out of the equation I’ll acknowledge that GWB is probably not an evil person. (Cheney on the other hand). But his presidency it quantifiably the worst in my lifetime my a wide margin. Probably just because he was incompetent, not evil.

                7. Bart

                  bud, glad to know you are “hinged”. However, at times, you and I need to oil our hinges on occassion with some WD-40 to get rid of the squeaking when it comes to certain subjects.

  4. clark surratt

    For those picking out threats to democracy, I would say that if Trump is this bad, there is far more to worry about in the millions of voters who will pick him in November. After all, many of these same voters chose Trump over about 15 other candidates, most of whom by the Post’s definition are qualified to be president. Why wouldn’t the so-knowing Post express this fear? In other words, voters are incompetent. And maybe it’s my simple mind, but when a single member of Congress (speaker or majority leader) can say whether an issue is to be voted on or not (like a judge appointment), that sounds more of a threat to democracy than the Trump.

  5. Karen Pearson

    People are voting their anger. When someone’s anger overtakes her intelligence she loses control, and gives any opponent a great advantage. That’s why The Post is very nervous about this election.

    1. clark surratt

      A key here is who or what is causing the anger. Is it something that has emerged the past few years that caught on with voters? Is is Wall Street, lobbyist power, lost jobs, income inequality, violence, etc.? If so, it seems Democratic activists and Democratic politicians have raised the loudest voices on these issues. Did Democratic activists give us Trump? I’m having a hard time sorting this out.

      1. JesseS

        The left have always done a horrible job of vocalizing their anger without it sounding like “America is a land of bad people and betrayed ideals. You should feel really bad if you are reading this and you aren’t disabled, a women, poor, but pro-Union, non-Christian, LGBT, a person of color, or an immigrant”.

        The big boon of Neo-Liberalism is that it didn’t hinge entirely on the underdog status of your intersectional street cred.

      2. Bart


        Good question? My thought – all of the above and then some. The past 20 -30 years have been an upheaval in our society and considering the vast changes in the way we communicate, social norms of the past seemingly reversed overnight, increased agitation from politicians on both sides trying to curry favor for votes, income inequality (Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, and Conservatives alike) and a blantant in your face type of wealth that only adds insult to injury. Have you ever read some of the stories on the internet where celebrity and billionaire homes and lifestyles are highlighted yet these same people are the ones trying to tell the average person what to do? Can anyone imagine the absolute hypocrisy of Beyonce’ and her husband, billionaires, about income inequality and opportunity? Can you imagine how it impacts the psyche of the average American when a fiscal conservative billionaire starts complaining about Social Security and Medicare and how both are a drain on the economy?

        The discontent is real, as noted in my earlier comment, I have been fortunate enough to have visited and worked in several states and the disconnect between the wealthy, middle class, and poor is real, very real. People who wouldn’t shake the hand of a poor person no matter what their skin color is are some of the very same people who are occupying the bully pulpits, delivering a message they truly do not understand because they have never lived the life of a poor person. The only exception I know is Oprah Winfrey because she did come from rough beginnings.

        And yes, activists did give us Trump but not intentionally. When a loud voice stirs up discontent whether it is for humanitarian purposes, to secure votes, or personal aggrandizement, it does have an impact if the voice belongs to someone who is or has become influential. If not for an underlying anger, maybe not even recognized, do you believe Rush Limbaugh would have become so popular? Do you think we would have a line-up on Fox or MSNBC we do now if not for an underlying anger on both sides?

        When change happens too fast, it brings out what lies underneath our emotions and sometimes it is very ugly. I truly believe that most of us are basically conservative in nature on most things. When our conservative nature is upended, we react. That is natural. How we handle our reaction and how we look at ourselves in the mirror – honestly – determines whether we become angry, bigoted, racist, peaceful, hopeful, or any other appropriate description. The reason I believe we are all basically conservative is that most of us do not want violence in our lives, we do not want arguments, or anything else that is unpleasant but we want cooperation, peace, and injustices addressed in a sensible and pragmatic manner that will solve the problem.

        Well, thanks for reading my thoughts on the subject. Seems like the older I get, the more I see things a lot clearer and with less emotion. We can solve our problems in a peaceful manner, all we need to do is start at home, with our families, our neighbors, and friends. In my estimation, it starts with the willingness to sit down and have a conversation, an honest one. Otherwise, nothing will change.

  6. Doug Ross

    Nate Silver, the polling darling of 2012, is now saying it’s a tight race between Hillary and Trump with Trump leading in one of his models.

    Are Democrats confident that Hillary can deliver this week and in the coming debates? She cannot make a single misstep.

    Anyone who thinks this is anything but a tossup is delusional.

    1. Phillip

      I had to go to Nate Silver’s site to doublecheck what you said, Doug, and it’s true. Shocking, because I would have thought more people would have recoiled in horror at the whole Republican convention and particularly Trump’s dark, authoritarian vision.

      But I guess maybe not. I have to confess that today, for the very first time, the thought crossed my mind, just for a minute, that my family and I might down the line find ourselves thinking about leaving the country. That I even live in a time and place where that is even a remote possibility is something I just never thought I would see.

      1. Doug Ross

        Pundits thought Trump was the product of some subset of crazy Republicans. He’s not. He’s the byproduct of a corrupt two party system that many people are fed up with on both sides. The system spawned Trump AND Bernie and Hillary is not going to keep the Bernie fans. She has no message for the Rust Belt. No message for the poor. It’s still the economy, stupid. It’s still about jobs more than anything else.

      2. bud

        Yeh, Nate’s site today was really horrifying. The Trump phenomenon is something that I am unable to comprehend. I hear things like how angry people are. Then I look at unemployment and crime statistics and scratch my head. These are not numbers to be angry about. Rather they paint a picture of progress and should sound a clarion call to stay the course. The number of murders nationwide has dropped sharply since the early 90s. The unemployment rate is 4.9%. The employed to population ratio has risen for the last 5 years. Economic growth, though slow, is at least positive. Ditto wages. Inflation and interest rates remain low. The teenage birth rate is way down. The number uninsured is down. Heck even the number of illegal immigrants is down. Even the president’s approval rating so is good. Concern? Yes. Cautious optimism? Absolutely. Indifference? Perhaps. But there is just nothing going on to justify all this fear mongering and bitterness that seems to permeate the electorate.

        And even if things were terrible why Trump? He seems uniquely unqualified to address any problems within the political arena. He’s a bully, a narcissist and really not remotely knowledgeable about the constitution or governance. Yet here he is tied with the most qualified person ever to run for the presidency. I just don’t get it.

        1. Doug Ross

          Obama has no responsibility for the economy. None. Weren’t you one of the ones who claimed the government shutdown would destroy the country. The best thing for the economy is gridlock in Washington.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            No, that’s not true, Doug. Up is not down; black is not white.

            Funding the government is the basic, the minimal, the least that Congress is obligated to do. Our country depends on everyone doing their jobs. Congress is doing the opposite when it shuts the government down…

            I feel like such a dork saying such obvious things…

            1. Doug Ross

              It’s funded. The problem is spending exceeds revenue. I feel like such a dork saying obvious things.

            2. Bryan Caskey

              It’s too bad that Congress only gets a binary choice on whether to fund the government or not.

              I know this is crazy, but what if Congress did some sort of detailed budget that funded things Congress wanted to fund and didn’t fund programs it doesn’t? This system could have lots of different committees that passed smaller budgets in multiple pieces that would eventually become part of an overall budget.

              It would certainly require more work on the part of individual Congressmen, but it might work out better than the current system of voting for the overall budget in one vote vs. shut down the government.

              Crazy idea, I know.

              1. Doug Ross

                You mean actually work like a (horrors!) business? And (horrors!) give the President line item veto power? And (horrors) make sure the spending = revenue?

                Why, that would destroy America!

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  I don’t know if that’s necessarily “like a business”, or not. Your mileage may vary. In any event, I don’t care what it’s called. How about we call it run government “like adults”.

                  Having multiple Congressional committees and individual appropriation bills is how it’s supposed to work, in theory. If the Congress actually worked on multiple appropriation bills, it would break the budget up into more easily understandable pieces, increase transparency and therefore, oversight and accountability.

                  As we currently have had it for years and years is that right at the deadline, one giant “Omnibus” bill is presented that only gets an up or down vote and our legislators are put in the position of voting for funding the government or not, take it or leave it. There’s no real time or ability to look at individual pieces.

              2. clark surratt

                Mr. Caskey,. Without saying it, you have shown by your description what I stated before about the Washington Post editorial suggesting that Trump is great threat to Democracy. A much greater threat is the almost absolute power to control budgets and other laws in the hand of three for four people in Congress (a power relinquished by the very members of Congress itself.) That is why the budget process is a travesty and does not work the way you laid out above.

    2. Scout

      I’d like to think that Hillary will have a leg up in debates because she can give an intelligent coherent on topic answer – whether or not you agree with her positions – she can speak on a topic, coherently, for more than a few sentences at a time and provide some level of detail. She knows adjectives other than great, huge, terrific, terrible, and very very good and she uses words that have more 3 syllables more than just occasionally. I guess I’m weird but language skills count for something to me, and I kind of think they are also important to the job they are applying for. But I find myself despairing that the average person notices or cares that Trump can’t seem to answer a question with any depth, support his thinking with any facts other than something that “some people are saying”, and not go off topic immediately. Transcripts of his interviews with the Washington Post editorial board and his performance on 60 minutes both illustrate this serious weakness rather pointedly.

      But who knows if the electorate will notice.

  7. Bryan Caskey

    No one is obligated to help or vote for a candidate he or she considers unfit for office and a bad person besides. Both Trump and Hillary are unfit for office and bad people.


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