Yesterday, the New York Times dropped a bombshell op-ed written by a high-ranking official in the Trump White House. Written anonymously, the piece describes how members of the administration are working to hold back the havoc caused by the President’s “amorality” and lack of ideological scruples. The author describes how they and others are part of a “resistance” who try to thwart policies and actions they find distasteful. They celebrate some of what they manged to achieve through the President, but revealed that many had nevertheless considered invoking the 25th amendment to remove him because of his volatility. They ultimately didn’t, though, to avoid a “constitutional crises.”

While some may be relieved by the author’s assurance that there are “adults in the room” or feel baleful glee at seeing the President publicly taken to task, let me be clear: There is absolutely nothing good about this.

I’m not exaggerating. Provided that at least the gist of what this op-ed says is correct, here’s just some of what it’s effectively admitting.

  1. We have a President who is patently unfit for office and whose regular impulse is to enact policy that would harm the country.
  2. People know this yet refuse to invoke a constitutional amendment specifically designed for this sort of occasion.
  3. Part of what keeps this “resistance” working within the administration is the fact that Trump is useful for passing policies they personally agree with.
  4. These individuals received no mandate for this mission. They took it upon themselves and have no oversight. But you don’t need to worry because, basically, “trust us.”

In effect, we have an extra-constitutional veto-and-policy-making force operating in the White House, concertedly undermining the sitting President in ways vetted only by their personal sense of what is “good for the country.”

I have often been critical of the President. I did not support him in 2016 nor do I now. But that’s horrifying.

To be clear, this is not a coup. The office has not technically changed hands; President Trump retains his seat and the power that it grants. It is, however, flagrantly anti-democratic and shows an astounding lack of fidelity to the constitution. On top of that, it displays an erosion of critical norms necessary to keep authoritarianism at bay.

The author writes about how they see themselves as checking, among other things, Trump’s noted affinity for autocrats. They pat themselves on the back and fashion a hero’s cape while they pave the way for autocracy to come later.

The downsides go further. Aside from what has been written, there are also the consequences of its publication. Although the author explicitly insists that this is not a “deep state,” it is functionally close enough to give ammunition to some truly bad actors.

I make stuff for the Internet. I see my fair share of legitimate fascists and neo-nazis. I see how terrifyingly good they are at recruiting ordinary people into their fold, at spinning a skepticism of government and a sense of disenfranchisement into support for truly heinous propositions. This NYT op-ed just gave them and others on the conspiratorial right a loaded gun. “Holy cow, this isn’t a backwater blog post– this is the New York Times! If these folk were right about the Deep State, what else could they be right about…”

That’s not all: Part of what inspired this “resistance” is President Trump’s erraticism and paranoia. I warned a friend of mine how publishing this piece, letting Trump know that members of his team were actively undermining him, would only make it worse. And then, like clockwork:

If the op-ed is true, then the President isn’t the kind of man to let his anger about one issue not impact the rest of his actions. How many other poor decisions are going to come from the fury caused by this fallout? If they believe so strongly that what they and others are doing is the right thing, why would they make it harder to do?!

This is not the work of a principled, sagacious hero. These are the doings of a short-sighted, cowardly, and unscrupulous opportunist. And frankly nothing good can come from it.

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Peter Licari
Peter is a PhD student in American Politics and Political Methodology at the University of Florida studying political behavior, elections, and polling. He identifies as an ideological moderate and a center-left Republican. While he departs from the party line on a handful of salient issues (Gay Marriage, Climate Change, and Abortion), he tends to identify strongly with many of the party's core values including equality of opportunity, empowering individual liberty, the importance of state and local governance, and the power of a fair market. He firmly believes in the necessity of limited government intervention on those issues enumerated by the constitution and by legal precedent but is leery at expansion beyond that sphere. He also blogs at www.awildpoliticalnerd.com and doodles web-comics at www.p05comics.tumblr.com. What little spare time remains is dedicated to long-distance running, reading, playing video games with his ever-patient fiancee, Stephanie, and to oddly productive one-sided conversations with his cat, Asia.