Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2018

Currently: 76° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

The only way Trump can lead is with an iron fist, surrounded by yes men

With a 278-character tweet last week saying congressional Republicans should “stop wasting their time” on immigration reform, President Donald Trump erased any doubts of his dictatorial aspirations.

In telling the GOP it should instead wait until after the mid-term elections in November — when he imagines a red wave sweeping the nation — here was a president openly acknowledging that he couldn’t work with anyone who didn’t share his views and therefore needed a rubber-stamp Congress to give him anything he desires.

Trump’s real message: He broaches no compromise with those who disagree with his extreme views, he cannot negotiate and can lead only if surrounded by people who fear him.

This is a leader admitting he’s incapable of uniting and is hostile to a foundational tenet of democracy — the idea that dissenting opinions and vigorous debate between people of diverse viewpoints are essential in forming effective, well-rounded policy.

Let’s not forget that Trump is already working with simple majorities in both chambers of Congress, a situation in which real horse trading can be done with the minority party.

So in saying it’s a waste of time to address immigration or any other issue, Trump is not only acting dictatorially but showing he’s a weakling.

Don’t believe for a second that Democrats can’t or won’t come to the negotiating table. The problem is that Republican extremists have packed measures like the House’s so-called compromise bill with hard-right restrictions on both legal and illegal immigration, and won’t budge from those.

But Trump’s way forward isn’t to work the machinery of the political system and forge consensus — to lead like countless presidents before him, in other words. Instead, he’s hoping to rally his base voters into stacking Congress with Trump puppets in November, which would give him more unfettered power.

That’s alarming, considering how much congressional Republicans have already neutered Congress by abdicating their duty to provide a check on executive power. The Republican Party has devolved into what many longtime party members are decrying as a cult of personality — so much so that even longtime conservatives like George Will and top strategist Steve Schmidt are speaking out against it. Schmidt, who advised President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the GOP “is fully the party of Trump” and described it as “corrupt, indecent and immoral.”

But even a Congress that has rolled over for Trump isn’t enough for him. His image of a red wave might be a total fantasy, as suggested by plenty of primary results and polling, but it exposes his inability to function without having a near dictatorship.

Never mind that he lost the popular vote and that Americans disapprove of his stance on any number of issues, for Trump — as for dictators across history — leadership is a matter of might makes right.

And unless American voters put their foot down in November, the nation could end up with a Congress that is more than happy to wave him on his way to dictatorship.