Most of the 74,222,957 Americans who voted to re-elect Donald Trump (46.8% of the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election) do not hold Trump accountable for what he has done to the United States.
His acceptance of Trump’s behavior will be his vilest legacy.
Nearly forty years ago, political scientist James Q Wilson and criminologist George Kelling observed that a broken window left unattended in a community indicates that no one cares if the windows are broken there. The broken window is therefore an invitation to throw more stones and break more windows.
The message: do what you want here because others have done it and gotten away with it.
The broken window theory has led to petty and arbitrary law enforcement in poor communities. But America’s most privileged and powerful have been smashing large windows with impunity.
In 2008, Wall Street nearly destroyed the economy. The Street was rescued as millions of Americans lost their jobs, savings and homes. However, no top Wall Street executive went to jail.
In more recent years, senior executives at Purdue Pharmaceuticals, along with the Sackler family, knew the dangers of OxyContin but did nothing. Wells Fargo Bank executives pressured bank employees to scam customers. Boeing executives withheld test results that showed their 737 Max Jetliner was unsafe. Police chiefs across the United States looked the other way as the police under their command repeatedly killed innocent black Americans.
Here they have also gotten away with it. These windows remain broken.
Trump has brought impunity to the highest office in the country, wielding a wrecking ball at the window pane of the most precious of all: American democracy.
The message? A president can obstruct special counsel investigations into their crimes, pressure foreign officials to investigate political rivals, fire inspectors general who find corruption, order the entire executive branch to reject subpoenas from Congress, flood Internet with false information about his opponents, he refuses to publish his tax returns, accuses the press of being “false media” and “enemies of the people”, and makes money with his presidency.
And you can get away with it. Almost half of the electorate will even vote for his re-election.
A president can also lie about the results of an election without the slightest evidence and yet, according to polls, be believed by the vast majority of those who voted for him.
Trump’s recent pardons have broken double-pane windows.
Not only has he broken the rule of presidential pardons, generally granted because of a petitioner’s good conduct after conviction and serving of sentence, but he has forgiven people who broke windows. By forgiving them, you have made them irresponsible for their actions.
They include aides convicted of lying to the FBI and threatening potential witnesses to protect him; her son-in-law’s father, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, witness tampering, illegal campaign contributions, and lying to the Federal Election Commission; Blackwater Security Guards Convicted of Killing Iraqi Civilians, Including Women and Children; Border Patrol agents convicted of assaulting or shooting unarmed suspects; and Republican lawmakers and their aides found guilty of fraud, obstruction of justice and campaign finance violations.
It is not simply the size of the broken window that undermines the standards, according to Wilson and Kelling. It is the will of society to look the other way. If no one is held accountable, the rules collapse.
Trump may face an avalanche of lawsuits when he leaves office, possibly including criminal charges. But it is unlikely that he will go to jail. Presidential immunity or self-pardon will protect you. The discretion of the prosecution would almost certainly argue against the prosecution, in any event. No former president has been convicted of a crime. The mere possibility of a criminal trial for Trump would trigger a partisan fight across the country.
Congress may attempt to limit the power of future presidents, strengthening congressional oversight, strengthening the independence of inspectors general, requiring more financial disclosure, increasing penalties for presidential aides who violate laws, restricting the pardon process, etc. .
But Congress, an egalitarian branch of government under the Constitution, cannot control dishonest presidents. And the courts do not want to intervene in political matters.
The gruesome reality is that Trump can get away with it. And by getting his way, he will have changed and degraded the rules that govern American presidents. The giant windows he has smashed are invitations for a future president to break even more.
Nothing will correct this unless or until an overwhelming majority of Americans acknowledge and condemn what has happened.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.