Liberals Rediscover Their Love for the Constitution
Liberals, on the streets and in the media, are going through something we might generously call a “public freakout” in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. Even the rare prognosticators who warned that Hillary Clinton’s victory was not as inevitable as her supporters thought had to admit they were shocked by the outcome. Almost no one within mainstream political circles thought this would happen, and now they’re writing opinion pieces warning of the collapse of the United States.
Remarkably, Trump has awoken something in liberals that has been dormant for the last eight years: Respect for the Constitution. After smiling their way through President Obama’s gleeful disdain for the restraints on executive power, they are now trembling at the idea of Trump turning the presidency into a dictatorship.
At the Washington Post, Charles Lane wrote that Trump possessed something known in sociological terms as “charismatic authority,” which imbued him with power that would be difficult to block:
As Max Weber famously defined it, “charismatic authority” stems from a kind of political mojo “resting on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him.”
Anyone who has witnessed a Trump rally, and the energy generated by the mutually reinforcing rule-breaking carried out by both candidate and crowd, can confirm that Weber’s concept applies.
Looking ahead to the Trump administration, the hope must be that all of that was so much political spectacle, and that he will accept constitutional and political constraints once in office. The fear, though, is that his charismatic authority intoxicates, portending great difficulty for any who would challenge him, at least at the beginning.
Two things. One, it wasn’t Trump’s most dedicated, fervent supporters – the ones who attended his rallies – that put him in the White House. Some fifty million Americans voted for Trump and the vast majority of them did so unenthusiastically. Most of them voted for Trump in the same way they would have voted for any other Republican candidate, with a sense of duty and dedication to conservative principles like fiscal responsibility, restrained government, and national defense. None of those voters want to see Emperor Trump.
Two, are you kidding?
For the last eight years, Barack Obama has turned the Oval Office into his own private Congress. The courts have put some of his worst offenses – the 2014 amnesty order, for instance – on ice, but that doesn’t change the fact that he tried to grab more executive power than any president in history. And Democrats never made a peep. So spare us the histrionics.
Tuesday night’s results were a victory for the Constitution. For the first time in years, we will see true democracy in action. These nervous liberals aren’t worried about the erosion of legislative checks and balances; they’re worried about losing their precious progressive gains.
Which, to be fair, is something they are right to be worried about.