The president’s tweet to the ex-FBI director speaks the language of the Camorra.* There is a great danger that we will become accustomed to a state of permanent coup. Trump damages the substance that is America.
For a year and a half, Donald Trump has kept the world in suspense with his outrageousness. At first, we thought: He cannot become a candidate like that. Then we were convinced: He cannot become president like that. And finally, we predicted: He cannot remain president for long like that.
But Trump came, conquered and endures. More and more, citizens and large portions of the public are developing agitation fatigue.
The Onset of Resignation
The longer he stays, the bigger the outrageousness, the more jaded the reactions. After all, at some point it becomes embarrassing, or at least, not cool, to get worked up again and again. The indignant begin to resign themselves.
And the benchmark for what a president is not allowed to do, for what is intolerable, which should lead to his impeachment, has shifted further and further into the absurd.
What does Trump have to do before enough Republicans perceive him as a danger to democracy and is, consequently, unacceptable?
Watergate Was Less Harmful
Meanwhile, calming mantras circulate: Trump is not America, they say. And above all: American institutions are stronger than an impaired narcissist. But what if they are not?
With the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, and especially with the menacing tweet Trump aimed at him afterward, a new level of deeply rooted contempt of the constitutional state has been reached.
We often hear that this is reminiscent of Watergate. But Watergate was less harmful because what is currently happening in Washington is a publicly celebrated coup from the top. The aesthetics and dramatic composition of the staging are more reminiscent of the mafia than of Nixon.
Huge Scandals for Democracy
The president of the world’s strongest democracy dismisses one of the country’s chief prosecutors with no apparent reason after a personal conversation. He invites suspicions that the dismissal, to put it mildly, happened because the president wanted to prevent investigation about his ties to Russia that could be dangerous to him.
That in itself is a huge scandal for democracy. But blatantly threatening Comey via Twitter goes beyond the gray area where one might have any understanding for an unconventional governing style.
Trump wrote, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” That is the language of the Camorra.
So Many Reasons To Resign
This course of action, is, like so much else, a reason to resign. He does not just damage America’s reputation but its substance. Trump will not resign. And outrage fatigue will lead to fewer people demanding his resignation.
We get used to it and run the risk that authoritarian gestures will cause fear. And fear, in turn, leads to anticipatory obedience. What if Comey’s successor stops the investigation into Trump’s connection to Russia?
The Americans won’t do that? The litmus test will be whether or not Congress sets up an independent investigative commission to gain clarity in the case of Trump and Russia. This requires enough principled Republicans who will agree to the investigation because they put patriotism above party loyalty.
And Anti-Americans Are Slapping Their Knees
The sad punch line is that for now, Trump definitely serves Putin’s interests. In Europe and, above all, in Germany, there has traditionally been a deep-seated spiritual kinship with Russia and its strongmen; many people feel closer to this than to Americans and their uncomfortable longing for freedom.
And now anti-Americans are slapping their knees with laughter: Here we go, they say, the Americans are just as authoritarian as the Russians. We would rather have Putin than Trump.
By now, anyone who feels strongly about America must see in Trump an opponent of the values for which the world’s leading democracy has always stood. How did Abraham Lincoln phrase it? “Let us have faith that right makes might.” Yes, let us.
*Editor’s note: The Camorra is an Italian mafia-like organized crime syndicate or secret society, dating back to the 16th century.