Trump, the Media and Republicans


As a political scientist I’ve always believed in the importance of accepting election results as legitimate, and treating whoever is elected with respect.   Democracy rests on a belief that opposition and disagreement are good, and that it is a good idea to have power switch between parties – one party in power for too long leads to corruption.

The election of Donald Trump is forcing me to question my long standing belief that American democracy has a political culture and institutions capable of protecting democratic principles regardless of who is President.

It’s not just that I don’t agree with Donald Trump.  I disagreed with George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq, but never thought he lacked respect for America’s core ideals. I disagreed with his method and some of his beliefs about how the world works, but knew that at base we shared a respect for democracy and individual rights.

I’m not convinced Donald Trump shares that.  After his election I wrote “don’t panic.”  Well, panic is never good so yes, don’t panic.  But I believed that the Republican party would need to help Trump cope with his new role, and thus experts and advisors would lead him to a series of policies that respected democracy.


Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine) was one of the first of her party to stand up to McCarthy when he veered into fascist tactics

Oh, there might be big fights.  There always are.   But if you lose fights now, that just means working harder to win the next election so you can win the next battle.  Those loses might be really painful; the choice of war in 2003 has lead to tragic consequences globally, including many of the problems in the Mideast today.  Politics involves fights about consequential things.

But this seems different.  Alternate facts.  Fights about crowd size.  An immigration executive order that shows no empathy for the well vetted people who in good faith have waited for a visa to immigrate, or who are fleeing a war zone.   Calling a Judge who temporarily rescinds that order a “so-called Judge.”   Twitter rants aimed at the media and normal citizens, a President who thinks it’s OK to insult and ridicule others.

Or the role of Steve Bannon, who is on record predicting a war with China within five years, a PR maven movie maker, now given a seat on the National Security Council.  The President having angry phone calls with other world leaders, and who by all accounts lives to seek revenge against those he considers “enemies.”   Utter disdain for the press, talk of toughening up libel laws (really – does he think the President can sue someone for libel?)

Republicans say he’s still learning the job.   Others say he is psychologically unstable.  But for the first time, I wonder if consumerism and nationalism may finally be overcoming our core American values.


Edward R. Murrow, who made a name for himself reporting from London during WWII, took on McCarthy. Reporters need to be fair but aggressive with President Trump.

This has happened before.   Joe McCarthy launched a proto-fascist witch hunt that went on for years before he was stopped.  Then it was a mix of courageous reporters like Edward R. Murrow and people in his own party, like Margaret Chase Smith, who brought down McCarthy.

If President Trump keeps up this behavior, we’ll need to rely on the media to report everything and not be intimidated by the White House.  We’ll have to rely on Republicans, many of whom are silently fuming at Trump’s antics, some of whom have already spoken out.   I believe that the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has a moral conscience and a strong belief in American democracy.  So do most of his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate.

President Trump can only do so much without Congressional support.  Most Republicans want to work with the President to promote conservative ideas.  But they need to stand up to him if he maintains his current reckless approach.   They need to recognize that democracy trumps party loyalty.   Democrats and liberals will protest and resist, and that’s important.  But when it comes to governmental power, Republican legislators have a responsibility to step up should Trump’s behavior continue to defy the norms and values that define American democracy.

  1. #1 by SShiell on February 4, 2017 - 18:17

    And what exactly are the “norms and values that define American democracy?” And who exactly decides what these “norms and values” are? During the campaign that just ended I heard a lot of “qualification” statements. “He is not qualified for the position of President.” or “He is not qualified to be Commander-in-Chief.” or “He lacks the qualities for _______(fill in the blank).” And I wondered who decided what these qualifications were? The Constitution only provides 2 Qualifications for a person to hold the position of President but there were a lot of people who seemed to know that there were a whole lot of other requirements. And it puzzled me – what were these qualifications and who is authorized to establish them. And now you make a statement about “norms and value” and I gotta wonder what these are and who is authorized to write them down, and even further who is authorized to enforce them. Help me out here, Erb. Explain it to me.

    • #2 by Scott Erb on February 4, 2017 - 18:20

      This article explains it pretty well. If that’s not good enough for you, well, so be it.

      • #3 by Scott Erb on February 4, 2017 - 18:24

        Actually this is a whole book, but very good. At base, you respect democracy, rule of law, the opposition, and worry about abuse of power. Nationalism, authoritarianism, and disrespect for accountability are contrary. But this books is one of my favorite about the ideas that make America what it is, and are shared by people across the political spectrum:

      • #4 by SShiell on February 4, 2017 - 22:24

        You don’t like me asking the question? Tough. I get tired of being told by my so-called “betters” what is or what is not based upon their set of rules. And you know what, there Erb. Those rules do not come from a book. They do not come from some self-righteous Maine professor pontificating in some minor blog. The judges of what are the “norms and values” in this country come from the ballot box and Trump won. The people of this country voted and the President is Trump. You don’t like it, well, so be it.


      • #5 by Scott Erb on February 8, 2017 - 05:34

        The protests have been almost completely peaceful. The rioters are to the left what white nationalists are to the right. You can try to attack the whole group by attacking the extremes, but if you do, you’re being an ass.

      • #6 by Johnny Kelly on February 8, 2017 - 08:36

        Hmmm and how many sucker-punches, burnt out limos, demolished store fronts did you see in Obama’s first two weeks?

    • #7 by lbwoodgate on February 5, 2017 - 06:52

      “And what exactly are the “norms and values that define American democracy?””

      Seriously SS? Do you consider adult tantrums normal? Do you accept ridicule of those who don’t agree with you as part of your family values? Clearly you have ideological biases here that are more concerned about protecting Trump’s eradicate and self-serving behavior than you are about what most people feel are American norms and values.

      And please spare us the pretense of being a victim of your perceived adversaries. That for the most part is simply an immature reaction (e.g. whining) to things said that question your decision to vote for someone who shows all the signs of having narcissistic personality disorder

      • #8 by SShiell on February 5, 2017 - 10:48

        Whoa there, Woodpecker. I am not claiming to be a victim here. I do not have to claim victimhood in order to have an opinion. Also, I never once said who I voted for. The day that you are allowed to stand in the voting booth with me is the day you will know. And, just like the author of this blog, you like to build straw-man arguments that don’t exist – like you deciding what are my ideological biases. Once again, you don’t know. So climb down off that horse.

        My original point has not changed, who gets to decide what are the “norms and values that define American democracy”? And with your entrance into the discussion, is that You? And if it isn’t you, then you can stop pontificating to me as if you ARE responsible for upholding those norms.


      • #9 by lbwoodgate on February 5, 2017 - 23:07

        Speaking of “pontificating”, you jabbered incessantly without answering the questions I posed. They’re common sense questions and that basically is what determines right and wrong to a large degree. That and the use of critical thinking skills

        “you deciding what are my ideological biases. Once again, you don’t know.”

        Well common sense tells me I do for the most part. You expose them every time you print something here for us to read. It doesn’t take much to read between the lines. I’m sure you’ve made the same tentative judgment calls about me.

      • #10 by SShiell on February 6, 2017 - 09:00

        Regardless of whatever judgement calls I have made about you, I am not stupid enough to spout them because they are just as yours are – SH*T.

      • #11 by lbwoodgate on February 7, 2017 - 04:02

        ”because they are just as yours are – SH*T.”

        Well maybe a little flatulation – but SHIT? Who are you to call it SHIT? You apparently have low self-esteem but if mine were truly shit then I would be as popular as the Marmalade clown. The judges of what’s “shit” in this country come from the ballot box and the American people have made their voices known about what shit is and it now sits in the Oval office.

      • #12 by SShiell on February 7, 2017 - 14:10

        And your choice of sh*t is NOT in the oval office. LOL.

      • #13 by lbwoodgate on February 7, 2017 - 14:27

        You know what’s really funny SS is your belief that the “norms and values” in this country come from the ballot box. Most voters are poorly informed about their candidates and their selections are often not votes FOR someone but against the opposition.

        If the norms and values of voters is what represents this country then explain to me how white evangelicals who were appalled at Bill Clinton’s infidelity to his wife had no problems with “an unrepentant serial adulterer who has abandoned two wives for other women” and who “has made his living as a casino mogul in an industry that preys on the poor and incentivizes immoral and often criminal behavior”.

        Are you then willing to defend the premise of your view that the norms and values of Americans as reflected in their votes has reached a despicable low and is something that you accept?

      • #14 by SShiell on February 7, 2017 - 17:40

        “Something that I can accept”? What do you suggest I do if I do not “accept” it? Cry like a baby like so many Hillary supporters did on election night? Point fingers in every direction trying to lay blame for Hillary losing? Blame the Russians? Threaten? Provoke violence? Call for armed insurrection or a military coup? Call for the assassination of the President? All of those things I have seen these past few weeks. And to what end? It sure isn’t to make you guys look good, ’cause it doesn’t.

        I intend to do exactly what I did 8 years ago. Hope and pray the leaders the people have constitutionally elected to lead us will do what is right for the United States. And if I disagree with the direction these people lead us I will get more involved. I have done that for the past 8 years. I actively worked for and assisted people I believe in get elected in 4 separate House and Senate races. And each of those people were successful against incumbents I disagreed with. And if I desire to do that sort of thing again, I will do so.

        Answer you question?

      • #15 by Scott Erb on February 7, 2017 - 18:26

        The protests and organizing you see – it’s just a warm up for 2018. The Democrats are doing exactly what you suggest if they think the President is wrong, with energy and vigor. And I will continue to blog my opinion if I think he’s acting in a repulsive and anti-American value way. The goal of all these actions is to persuade – and I think you’re seeing the start of a movement that will energize the left even more than the tea party did the right.

      • #16 by Johnny Kelly on February 8, 2017 - 03:05

        “will energize the left even more than the tea party did the right.”

        Yeah the Tea Party should have rioted more, burnt more cars, sucker-punched more opponents, called for assassination more… All they are missing are the brown shirts and jaunty marching songs.


      • #17 by Scott Erb on February 8, 2017 - 08:41

        There has been hardly any violence. Your claims are pathetic efforts to avoid confronting the reality – there is an energized, non-violent well organized opposition to Trump that will likely yield big Democratic gains in coming elections. But hey, find some fringe violence and whine about that. I’ll just shake my head and chuckle at you.

      • #18 by lbwoodgate on February 10, 2017 - 11:22

        A good response overall SS

        “Something that I can accept”? What do you suggest

        Perhaps avoid trying to suggest that the electorate are legitimate “judges of what … the “norms and values” in this country” are.

        Just a thought

      • #19 by SShiell on February 10, 2017 - 11:27

        If the electorate is not the final arbiter then who is? Just a thought.

      • #20 by lbwoodgate on February 10, 2017 - 12:19

        “If the electorate is not the final arbiter then who is? Just a thought.”

        Uh, corporate and wealthy special interests.

      • #21 by lbwoodgate on February 10, 2017 - 12:27

        Curious how you changed my words from “legitimate ‘judges’ of what … the ‘norms and values’ in this country’ are” to “final arbiter”.

        Voters may be the final arbiter of choices that have been made for them by powerful special interests inundating them with political ads after they have promoted their preferred candidate so mixing words may be deceptive

      • #22 by SShiell on February 10, 2017 - 22:21

        So that I do not misunderstand you. You are saying the final arbiters of the “norms and values that define American Democracy” is, by your own words, “corporate and wealthy special interests”? With all due respect, I hope this was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek!

      • #23 by lbwoodgate on February 11, 2017 - 21:37

        “I hope this was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek!

        And I sincerely hope you are not as naive as your comment suggests

      • #24 by SShiell on February 11, 2017 - 23:03

        I guess I am that naive. I served this country in uniform for 26 years and if “corporate and wealthy special interests” define the “norms and values that define American democracy” then, from my perspective, those were 26 years wasted serving a lie.

    • #25 by timactual on March 5, 2017 - 17:09

      “You can try to attack the whole group by attacking the extremes, but if you do, you’re being an ass.”

      Like characterizing all Trump supporters as “white nationalists” (whatever those are)?

      • #26 by timactual on March 5, 2017 - 17:14

        “Uh, corporate and wealthy special interests.”

        Like the ones supporting Hillary and JEB!

      • #27 by Scott Erb on March 5, 2017 - 17:22

        Most Trump supporters I know are good people. I think they don’t understand that Trump is not really a conservative, and probably more a threat to the GOP than to the Democrats (who seem to be energized).

      • #28 by timactual on March 19, 2017 - 13:13

        What makes you think Trump supporters don’t realize he is not a “real” conservative? What makes you think they care about the Republican party?

  2. #29 by Scott Erb on February 4, 2017 - 23:09

    You’re being a bit touchy, I didn’t complain about questions. Also, you’re imagining things if you think I’m trying to tell you about rules. I’m giving an opinion, and if you read carefully, you’ll see I never said Trump actually had crossed that line yet. Only that his style, his name calling, his weird fights about his popularity cause me to worry, and thus call on the media to watch him closely, and the GOP to protect their party and the country IF he crosses that line. The people who will judge that are the politicians in the Republican party who will determine if Trump has gone to far and is acting undemocratically. I, of course, can have my opinion. And there is no need to think that another person stating their opinions is someone trying to claim they’re “better” or are establishing rules. Opinions are just that, opinions!

    • #30 by timactual on March 19, 2017 - 13:18

      In case you missed it, during the primaries the Republican politicians already determined Trump had gone too far and was unfit. You may have heard the phrase “Never Trump” occasionally.

      His “style” makes you worry? Seriously? Seems a bit superficial.

  3. #31 by Scott Erb on February 4, 2017 - 23:19

    One other thing – you may be upset about the march on Washington, and the barrage of protests and criticism of Trump. But SShiell, remember the tea party and the criticism by the right against Obama. The Democrats are developing a movement of their own out of distaste for Trump, the GOP did that in response to Obama. We’ll see if they have the same success in 2018 that the GOP had in 2010.

    • #32 by SShiell on February 5, 2017 - 00:36

      Never once mentioned the march on Washington, nor anything about any barrage of protests or criticisms against anybody. I mentioned one thing only – being told what the rules were. You were the one who mentions all of these things. You are the one setting up the straw-man to argue against – not me. In fact I never even mentioned Trump until the second comment.

      But to content. You say the people who will judge “are the politicians in the Republican party” and once again I disagree with you. Those are the same politicians who spoke out against Trump to begin with. Almost to a man/woman, they lined up and took their shots with the media and the Democrats cheering them on and his numbers got better and better. These politicians were the same ones that common folks had grown weary of. Promises made time and again and each and every promise went unfulfilled. And every 2 or 4 years they came back around promising once again to do better. And this was true of both sides of the aisle. Trump was the outsider. And every time he said something boneheaded the media would pounce. He’s done it now. He’s finished. But he wasn’t. Those very Republican politicians had better be careful or the very people who supported Trump will turn on them.

      Keep your eyes open, Erb. Both of them. Don’t just watch the violence being played out on the tube. But watch the resolve of Trumps’s support grow with each riot. I have a lot of friends who voted against Trump who have recently told me “This keeps up on the left and I will vote for him next time” or “I regret voting against Trump if these are the folks I am now aligned with” Compare and contrast what you see today with the horrible antics of the Tea Party protests of days gone by. See any difference? If you don’t, well, so be it.


      • #33 by Scott Erb on February 5, 2017 - 02:49

        Trump gets high disapproval ratings because he is proving himself a child – unable to take criticism, hyper-sensitive, and not a believer in democracy. Trump looks like he will fail, and right now, he looks to lack real support. I was right about the Iraq war. I think I’m right about this.

      • #34 by SShiell on February 5, 2017 - 11:01

        Just like you were right about the 2010 midterms? Just like you were right about the 2014 midterms? And just like you were right about the 2016 general election? Hillary landslide if I remember correctly but that is easy enough to check, it was only a few entries past.

        For myself, I prefer not to predict failure or success of the current President. I prefer to hope for the best for my country. I did that with the last President and I will do the same with this one. And, as with the last President, I hope I am right.

      • #35 by Scott Erb on February 5, 2017 - 13:12

        Trump is a con man. That’s been my opinion of him since the late 80’s. He’s in way over his head, and he’s had a horrible week due to his impulsiveness. He’s lied repeatedly, using propaganda to get supporters to not care about the truth. But his supporters are a minority, and even Republicans are starting to denounce him. The US has checks and balances, the President needs to get along with others to get anything done. Otherwise, he fails.

      • #36 by timactual on March 5, 2017 - 17:24

        “Trump is a con man”

        As a political scientist, then, you know that he fits in well in Washington. His con is obviously not as polished and smooth as everyone else’s, but then he doesn’t have, as you say, the training or experience.Like Bill Clinton, his first year will be very amusing as he transitions from the minors to the majors.

  4. #37 by Johnny come lately on February 5, 2017 - 11:06

    What was it a wise man once said?

    “Elections have consequences”

    “I have a pen and a phone”

    Etc. Perhaps the good professor should have spoken up a few years earlier.

    • #38 by Scott Erb on February 5, 2017 - 11:10

      That’s an odd comment. Yes, elections definitely have consequences, that’s undeniable. Cool if you have a pen and a phone. I actually have bought some old Papermate Profile pens on E-bay — they don’t make pens like they used to. Old phones aren’t so useful though.

      • #39 by Johnny come lately on February 5, 2017 - 11:18

        And here we thought you could quote Obama inside and out.

  5. #40 by Scott Erb on February 5, 2017 - 11:08

    Yep, everyone gets some predictions right and some predictions wrong. But the Iraq war was a horrible mistake, and some defended it long after it was clear it had gone bad, saying “small steps.” Now even foreign policy textbooks treat it as a fiasco. Though ironically my opinion of President Bush improved since by 2006 it was clear he realized he had been misled and he altered his policy completely, and stopped listening to Cheney. He also had a good immigration plan. In his second term, when his approval ratings tanked, he was actually doing well. But since I think Trump’s vision is bad for America, I think his failure would be good for America. Time will tell!

  6. #41 by lee1978 on February 6, 2017 - 11:41

    I think Trump’s vision of America is not just bad but down right scary. What is scarier to me are the people who don’t seem scared by it. Who have so bought in to the fear mongering that they view these decisions as protective and who are so used to name calling themselves that when our POTUS does it, they don’t bat an eyelash. And to hopefully avoid throwing gas on the fires of your blog I do not refer to those who have responded to your most recent post. It is an observation of dialogue I have attempted to have post election with friends IRL and on social media

  7. #42 by Norbrook on February 6, 2017 - 13:34

    Trump is rapidly destroying the idea that being a successful businessman – for whatever measure of “success” you use – is a qualification for leading a government. If I ever wondered why he had so many failures in his business resume, just watching the past two weeks gives more than adequate reasons as to why they happened. Poor preparation, inability to tolerate dissent, failure to consult with others, unwillingness to accept facts that don’t jibe with his predetermined beliefs, among many other problems. He could get away with it running a business, but it’s absolutely wrong when running a country.

  8. #43 by Scott Erb on February 8, 2017 - 08:45

    It may be that Trump will be the best thing to happen to the Democratic party. If Hillary had won they’d have been stuck with a symbol of the past. Now they can look to the future, with a clear eye as to what the Republican party is all about. Already many Trump voters are angry about Obamacare being gutted. There is an extremism and incoherence to his policies that will give the opposition plenty of fodder. This has energized progressives who under Obama took rational policies for granted, and now realize that emotional extremism can threaten stability. This could be just the wake up call America needed.

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