“…and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” JFK, inaugural address, 1961
It’s not hard to understand Donald Trump. He’s all raging id and feral ego. He’s little more than predator out of the jungle of Manhattan, where rapacity is six out of the seven cardinal, err, virtues. (The seventh is shamelessness.) Trump, it is clear, is not driven by anything more complex than raw appetite.
No marriage vow constrains his sexual appetites. No ethical concerns cloud his greed and perfidy both in business and in politics. We should not expect the oath of office to do any better in constraining him. What more is there to say about him than that? Can we even blame him? Tigers gotta hunt, it’s been said. It’s what they do.
Less understandable is the conceit, adopted by many a Republican, that in enabling Trump they think they can escape the consequences of his appetites. That they can ride that tiger and not, in fact, end up inside. The growing pile of political carcasses left in his wake, so far, testifies to the foolishness of this endeavor.
Yet still they persist.
Take Neil Gorsuch for example: a supposed scholar of the US Constitution who was given his seat by nakedly unconstitutional means. Would someone with even a mustard seed’s amount of respect for the Constitution take that offered seat on those terms?
Would a firefighter become an arsonist just so he could celebrate the work of firefighting? How would that work?
In what way does Gorsuch show any respect for the rule of law? No, for Gorsuch it is less the rule of law and more the dictates of sophistry: the return of the revenge of the son of originalism; a simpleminded consistency except where and when any inconsistency is called for.
Or Brett Kavanaugh, a man whose appetite for beer seems overmatched by his fury. When questioned on his alleged lack of control, he flew into an uncontrolled and spittle-flecked rage, profoundly disturbing in itself as well as strongly mitigating the ‘alleged’ bit. The last Democrat to rage like that was Howard Dean and he’s barely been heard from since. That’s because Democrats know how to recognize someone on the edge when they see it.
Would someone with even a modicum of judicial temperament try to ride that tiger? Who is it that would get that angry trying to protect something given to them by Donald Trump?
And now the revanchist Amy Coney Barrett, whose nomination is in blunt mockery of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (The same was done in 1992 when they nominated an African American mediocrity, Clarence Thomas, to replace the great African American Thurgood Marshall.)
Never mind the naked hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell, Amy Coney Barrett’s act of accepting the nomination to the court is disrespect and defiance of the court. Why would she even take that position on those terms and from this president?
It gets worse.
She is also expected to be the deciding vote on any questions on the election, should things devolve so much that the court has to decide (again). When she was younger and dreaming of a possible seat on the court did she imagine it would involve a transacting of favors with a tangerine Idi Amin? Did she someday imagine taking the nomination on behalf of a man who would ask her to break the court even more, just so that she could have a seat on a broken court? Is that what she worked for?
What manner of madness is this? Is this the answer to Paul’s question in the letter to the Romans, ‘Shall we go on sinning that grace might increase?’ Shall the court be debased that the honor of it may increase? How is that supposed to work?
These people have thrown their lot in with Trump, riding that tiger in a naked power grab. But is it a prize at all worth having if you have to spit on it to get it? How can it be the highest court in the land if you have to bring it so low?
Plus, they’re going to get eaten in the end. Or, put another way, as Gandhi said, ‘In the end, the deceivers deceive only themselves.’