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The Corruption of the Quest for Power

To Donald Trump, being President of the United States was never about serving the people. He was attracted to the glitz, the fame and yes, the power associated with the title.

Being referred to as “the most powerful person in the world” held, and continues to hold, tremendous sway for him and his followers. It was this loss of power that was the impetus for the January 6th insurrection and the current upheaval in our political landscape.

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Abuse and Denial

The quest for power is summed up in a very odd place: the Spider-Man comics. The quote states “With great power comes great responsibility.” Trump wanted the power, but refused to accept the responsibility. Instead, it was all about blame, finding a scapegoat or, when that didn’t work, creating a distraction to avoid being held responsible.

He famously stated, “I don’t take responsibility at all” when questioned about his inept handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He blamed the “do nothing Democrats” for his lack of a legislative agenda despite the fact hundreds of bills languished on then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) desk during his administration. He manufactured a border crisis to justify diverting funds meant to improve the living conditions of our troops to his much ballyhooed border wall.

There are many more examples, but you get the point.

Holding so much power means there is the temptation to abuse it. And Donald Trump certainly gave in to this temptation on multiple fronts. There is the overcharging of Secret Service during his multiple golf outings, which Trump pocketed since those outings were at his own properties. His Washington, D. C. hotel is under investigation because of exorbitant charges that were made by his inaugural committee. And for someone who claims to be a multi-billionaire, he certainly has a lot of questionable fundraising activities.

While Republicans are quick to call out Hunter Biden for his sale of his artwork, they looked the other way as White House spokesperson Kellyanne Conway promoted Ivanka Trump’s clothing line from the White House grounds. Ivanka herself used the trappings of her position to promote a Trump-favorable company from inside the White House.

The Imperial Presidency

It’s no secret that Donald Trump shattered all the norms of the Executive Office. He’s largely gotten by because his supporters believe he was “sent by God”. Using this rationale, they have ignored the many ways he has avoided scrutiny for his multiple transgressions. Instead of “acting presidential”, as he often mocked, he acted more like an emperor while treating those around him as subordinates.

Sadly, he did not afford this treatment to his predecessor, Barack Obama, who he repeatedly attacked with baseless claims, challenging Obama’s legitimacy. Likewise, he treated President Biden with the same measure of disrespect, even to the point of firing the White House staff so no one would be there to greet the incoming president when Trump ultimately vacated the White House.

Trump viewed himself as being above past presidents, asserting that he was a better leader than even Abraham Lincoln. Yet he also claimed he was treated worse than Lincoln, who was assassinated. The fact most polls place Lincoln at the top of the list of the best presidents ever goes a long way to further Trump’s imperial delusions.

As far as emperors go, Trump certainly fits the label of a petty tyrant, with the emphasis on “petty”. Whether it’s shoving your way past other world leaders to get to the front for a photo op to demanding “Executive Time” so you can rant on right-wing news or Twitter, to having a button installed on the Resolute desk to order a Diet Coke, there are no depths too low for this wannabe emperor.

Instead of adhering to his Constitutional oath, he demands others swear loyalty to him, and not the nation they say they are leading. These oaths are backed up with confidentiality agreements that swear them to secrecy, much like the racist organizations that his followers belong to and take a vow of secrecy.

And what about those followers; those who attend his MAGA rallies and treat him with god-like reverence?

Since this is the lens through which Trump sees himself, it’s no wonder he thinks he is enormously popular. The rock show style rally combined with the circus atmosphere is reminiscent of gladiator battles in a Roman arena. With the threat of violence apt to break out at the slightest provocation, these rallies have the same feel as those held by Adolf Hitler as he railed against anyone who dared to oppose him, while arousing them into a frenzied mob, similar to the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the January 6th insurrection.

The Enablers

Donald Trump would not be where he is today if not for his enablers. That includes right-wing media, social media, conspiracy theorists and even members of the United States Congress. And that doesn’t even include the Russian agents who enabled him to win the 2016 election. Yes indeed, Trump will never admit it, but he owes whatever he can term as a success to those who enabled him.

Without his enablers there would have been no January 6th insurrection. It was organized on social media by conspiracy theorists and supported by Republicans in Congress to promote the Big Lie of a stolen election. Republicans further enabled Trump by continuing to insist on disputing the 2020 election results even after the insurrection and refusing to hold him accountable during his second impeachment trial.

For right wing media they continue to enable Trump for the ratings. They know that by continuing to support his outlandish claims, they will take in the advertising dollars from such corporate powerhouses as the “My Pillow “ guy. When Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity spew their garbage, it’s catering to the whims of the conspiracy theorists who spread more lies to enable further misinformation.

For Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the reason they continue to support Trump is related to their own quests for power. McConnell sees backing Trump as his key to Republicans retaking the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, which would once again restore him as Majority Leader, where he could bring the Biden agenda to a screeching halt. Similarly, McCarthy sees the same thing happening in the House, where he hopes that by winning a majority, he would become Speaker.

Being a Leader

True leaders derive their power on the consent of the governed. It is the guiding principle of a representative democracy. It is also something Donald Trump and Republicans wholly reject. The cornerstone of Republican policy is to deny any semblance of victory to Democrats, even if it would be beneficial to a majority of Americans.

Despite his protests, Donald Trump lost the popular vote in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. In 2016 he claimed he lost due to “millions of illegal ballots”. He continued this rant after losing the 2020 election, giving rise to the Big Lie. Despite this, during his time in office, he continued to cater only to those who supported him, and even turned on those he viewed as showing less than complete subservience to his will.

Real leaders inspire. In times of crisis they console. In times of division they unify. In times of transition they ensure a smooth transition.

Donald Trump was never a real leader. Instead, he was all about maintaining his grip on power. In a time of crisis, he did not console hurricane survivors. Instead, he threw them paper towels. In a time of division, he created a greater schism. In a time of transition, he inspired an insurrection.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And if anyone is absolutely corrupt, it’s Donald J. Trump.

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