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Trump and the fragility of the American republic

Trump and the fragility of the American republic

President Donald Trump’s speech Thursday night accepting the Republican presidential nomination unwittingly highlighted the delicate balances that must be struck if the Republic is to survive, and indirectly revealed the subtle but intense forces that seek to upset the equilibrium.

Wallace Henley, former Senior Associate Pastor of 2nd Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. | Photo by Scott Belin

Some criticized the length of Trump’s speech. We live in the soundbite age when 70 minutes requires mental endurance. We are far beyond the days when politicians and preachers were expected to speak at least an hour, or often more.

Trump’s oration was long because he provided much detail, along with some repetition. Ours is not only the soundbite period, but also the age of ambiguity.  Thus, it was important for him to get beyond hazy generalizations.

The nation needs the positive, confident tone it conveyed — without the Trumpisms. Overall, it was a refreshing speech in an era characterized by a pseudo-intellectualism that treasures ambiguity and innuendo. Like it or not, Trump is blunt and head-on.

That brings us to the delicate balance essential for the survival of the American Republic. Here are the elements that must be carefully sustained:

  • Recognition and active acceptance of True Transcendence and the accountability that goes with it

Trump’s mention of God in his acceptance speech may have been intended to put the spotlight on the Democrats’ exclusion of such reference. There is also evidence that after four years in the Oval Office Trump takes religion seriously.

However, expressions in his speech about what he has done came too close at times to the messianic. Without the sense of True Transcendence human beings make human flesh transcendent, as so graphically seen now in nations under state atheism. The American Founders recognize the issue up front, described in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence: Human rights come from the Creator, and governments are accountable to Him through the people they serve. If Donald Trump does not understand that principle, his very strength could upset the delicate balance.

  • A strong Executive

Woodrow Wilson had been a strong president for good or bad until a debilitating stroke in October 1919. Wilson’s wife, Edith, took over not only the care of the president, but oversight of the nation itself. Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian, wrote that she “embarked on a bedside government that essentially excluded Wilson’s staff, the Cabinet, and the Congress.”[1] In a period when the Washington establishment and Deep State work intensely to bring down the Trump presidency, threatening the essential equilibrium, Trump understandably seeks to exert executive power. This is a situation that threatens the survival of constitutional government.

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So, the good news is that Trump is a strong president.

But, the bad news is that Trump is a strong president.

The positive side of his strength is that he will make decisions, he will go forward despite opposition — and even barrel over it.

The negative side is that his strength can deteriorate into authoritarianism.

Presidential strength alone becomes dictatorship. Presidential strength linked to balancing components makes for healthy governance.

  • An equally strong Legislative body

“Checks and balances” constitute the equilibrium the architects of the American Republic sought. The Washington Post accused Trump of “consistently” steamrolling the Congress “on some of its most basic functions.”[2] However, it could be argued that the House of Representatives especially has weakened itself through diversion of its time and resources to attempt to bring down the Trump presidency.

  • A principled Judiciary

The contemporary age is one of intensely passionate ideology and partisanship. Too often that ideology has driven judicial decisions rather than principle. In a sense we are in a period like that of the horrific Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott case in 1857. Driven by the “spirit of the age” the high court ruled that Scott could not sue for his emancipation because as a slave he was not considered a citizen and therefore had no standing in the nation’s courts. In making that decision the Supreme Court trashed the Declaration of Independence principle that all people are created equal, seriously damaging a core principle of the Republic that should protect the freedom of all its people. Thankfully, the decision was overturned in the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, but only after a devastating civil war.

  • A free, fair, and objective press

When establishment media become part of the cabal seeking to, in effect, nullify the vote of the citizens who elected the president, they have abandoned their important function in the constitutional Republic and done it harm. Rather than trying to bring down the president true journalists will seek an objective exposure of fact devoid of spin. The people need information, not opinionated fiction. For example, in some of the coverage Thursday night media sought to delegitimize minorities who supported Trump in their speeches. Politico, for example, inferred that Alice Johnson, a black woman freed from prison by Trump was a “prop” in his election effort. Such heavy-handed journalism diminishes the media and its vital role in the delicate balance.

All this signals that the campaign ahead is going to test the stability of the American enterprise.

It is no wonder that Benjamin Franklin, when asked what kind of government the founders had wrought famously replied: “A Republic if you can keep it.”


[1] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/woodrow-wilson-stroke

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/08/10/trump-keeps-running-roughshod-over-congress/

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Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House and congressional aide, and author of more than 25 books. His newest is Two Men From Babylon: Nebuchadnezzar, Trump, and the Lord of History, published by Thomas Nelson.

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