“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Fredrich Nietzsche (1844-1900, European philosopher)
According to a Dec. 19, 2011, article in the “Daily Mail.com,” scientific research has proved Nietzsche right, at least in part. Small amounts of stress do make a person stronger and better able to cope with the difficulties of life. Too much stress, and too little, have the same effect: difficulty coping.
I bring this quote by Nietzsche up as a way of examining Donald Trump’s presidency thus far. Supporters and detractors alike are feeling a great deal of angst over recent events, for different reasons.
Democrats especially are deeply concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior and his apparent lack of self discipline with his tweets, his recent firings and his staff’s connections to the Russians. They are questioning Trump’s sanity and competence to lead.
Those who favor President Trump object to all of the negative criticism from the liberal press. As far as they’re concerned, Trump is doing exactly what they elected him to do: shake things up. The system is broken and needs to be fixed. Creative destruction is the only solution for America’s political and economic ills.
Time will tell which perspective is correct.
It seems that Trump’s actions and words are having one positive effect: people are being roused to political action and to more political awareness of what’s happening in Washington, D.C. People are reading and watching the news, insatiable in their concern and curiosity for his pronouncements and actions.
Demonstrations have spread across the country. Major cities have proclaimed themselves to be sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.
Trump supporters are strongly in favor of his approach, if not all his actions. Ninety-eight percent of those who voted for him in November would vote for him again. That’s pretty solid support.
Part of America’s political problem has come as a result of apathy. It was easy in the past to ignore what was going on in the U.S. capital. No more. Trump’s administration has become a reality show, stirring great interest across the nation. Virtually everyone has an opinion about him.
Trump’s positive impact upon the nation is that Americans have come to see that the actions and words of our president have a direct impact upon them and their lives. Democracy only works well when citizens become involved. Complacency only encourages the abuse of power. Those who understand what’s going on and have the financial and political resources to influence Congress to vote in their favor, have expanded. Political activism and awareness are going mainstream.
Millions of Americans are being reintroduced to their Constitution, trying to figure out what it says about emoluments and whether President Trump is using the system to enrich himself and his corporate empire. The issue of the emoluments clause never came up in American history before.
Constitutional questions about what classified information a president can and cannot release has been extensively discussed. Debates are raging whether Trump had the right to fire FBI Director James Comey.
Citizens are learning about whether a president can legally encourage government agencies to back off from criminal investigations of administration staff. Constitutional debates among Republicans have arisen as to whether Trump can be removed from office by using the 25th Amendment, which deals with presidential succession, rather than beginning impeachment proceedings.
Many Americans are learning about whether executive orders are valid in carrying out the president’s will, or whether they merely represent the president’s opinions and don’t have any real force of law behind them. Federal district judges have used their positions to act as checks upon presidential orders regarding immigration and religion. The are also having to decide whether what a president said during a presidential campaign plays a part in judicial decisions, in this case, immigration bans. State attorneys general have tested the power of states to check the power of the president and his decisions.
All of these challenges have created even more interest.
Nietzsche was right. As long as all the constitutional issues that Trump has raised during his short presidency don’t result in killing us all, then, at the end of his administration we will be stronger for it. Participation will have increased citizen involvement in the political process, making voters more aware. Complacency will disappear and social and political activism will replace it.
Perhaps Trump’s supporters understand intuitively what the rest of us cannot. Trump’s presidency may be the remedy America needs to reach a higher level of democracy.
Rich Elfers’ column in the May 24 edition, “Carried along rough waters of Trump” incorrectly identified Pat Robertson as affiliated with Liberty University. The university has no affiliation to Pat Robertson.