‘He May Be a Lunatic, But He’s Our Lunatic’? The GOP Doubles Down on Destruction

By keeping Donald Trump in the White House, the Republicans will disprove the theory that the corruption degrading American democracy is all about one man’s narcissism.



Lisa Van Dusen/For The Hill Times

January 30, 2020

Over the three decades Donald Trump teased America about a presidential run, nobody took it terribly seriously. The credulity gap beyond the recoiling of the political establishment was more about why a guy like Trump—real estate developer, modelizer, pageant impresario—would submit himself to the financial accountability and daily scrutiny of politics.

Even by the time conditions were in place to have largely neutralized those factors for him, nobody expressed the fear that Donald Trump might single-handedly concoct the most destructive assault on American democratic norms and constitutional principles in the history of the republic.

Trump’s assaults from the Oval Office on reason, logic, precedent, convention, sanity, practicality, taste, and the English language have been well-documented in a series of insider accounts from Fire and Fury to A Warning from Anonymous to A Very Stable Genius. The latest addition to the canon of Trumpology is Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump’s War on the World’s Most Powerful Office by Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes, yet another attribution of an American president’s rampage against the interests of his own country to his personality. Of Trump’s “personalized vision” of his office, the authors wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed: “Fundamentally, Mr. Trump proposes that the purpose of executive power is to serve the individual interests of the president.”

Why would a brand-obsessed real estate developer and game show host take it upon himself to unilaterally destroy the most powerful office in the world? Why would Donald Trump—the guy from The Apprentice—undertake an incremental, systematic degradation of truth, democracy, freedom of the press, human rights, American influence, multilateralism, and all the values the United States has represented—at the very least for the record and in principle—through 44 previous presidents? Is Trump some grotesque reboot of the classic Phil Hartman “Mastermind” SNL sketch of Ronald Reagan as an affable dolt in public who becomes an order-barking genius off-camera? Alas, every insider account portrays a Trump who is equally preposterous on- and off-camera.

On the clarifying question of cui bono, the overwhelming beneficiaries of his service have been interests much larger than Trump the individual, notably America’s geopolitical rivals—RussiaChina, and the legacy democracies under new management tilting toward the undemocratic new world order they front. And if Trump’s personality alone has helped them alter the global balance of power, it’s the most serendipitous, one-in-a-million coincidence of pathologically corrupt supply and demand in history (oops … two in a million … Boris Johnson is apparently providing the same, ostensibly personality-driven service).

The second major beneficiary of Trump’s presidency could be his successor. (Unless the failure to remove him leads to a second Trump term—the latest previously unthinkable outcome being pre-emptively peddled as a given). Whomever follows Trump as president will benefit exponentially from the sub-zero expectations of a world suddenly free of his relentless outrageousness. Trump’s successor could replace democracy with a totalitarian technocracy, allow the intelligence community to erect the surveillance state model that has become an Orwellian nightmare elsewhere and call it The Good Place as long as they don’t tweet while they’re doing it.

If the chaos besieging America were really just about one man’s narcissistic personality disorder, the Republicans in the Senate would be scrambling to remove him from office, end their co-dependency, and take credit between now and November for saving the country.

That they’re not doing so betrays his status as not a rogue lunatic but a weaponized symptom of a much larger problem. And unconditionally surrendering the constitutionally prescribed redress for just such a crisis is an abdication of responsibility not just to America, but also to the rest of the world.


Lisa Van Dusen is associate editor of Policy Magazine and a columnist for The Hill Times. She was Washington bureau chief for Sun Media, international writer for Peter Jennings at ABC News, and an editor at AP in New York and UPI in Washington.