The day after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, Professor Garrett Epps wrote in The Atlantic that “we the people” had just poured a “national libation of Kool-Aid” and demanded that everybody drink.
Wrote Epps: “I won’t.”
In “Donald Trump Has Broken the Constitution,” Epps says that adherence to a constitution requires “a commitment to procedure.” Though he says he found the impeachment of President Bill Clinton “a ludicrous comic-opera coup d’etat” and President George Bush’s war in Iraq “at best reckless and at worst insane,” Epps notes that constitutional forms were followed in both cases.
But, he says, Trump – who ran on a platform of “relentless, thoroughgoing rejection of the Constitution itself” — is something else again: “[T]here is hardly a provision of the Bill of Rights or later amendments he did not explicitly promise to override.”
Of the 60 million Americans who voted for Trump, Epps said: “I deny their right to give Trump my rights or those of others who cannot defend themselves. No result is legitimate that threatens the Constitution its very promise of the ‘blessings of liberty.’ No transient plurality, no matter how angry, has the power to strip minorities of equal status and protection; no mass of voters, no matter how frightened, has the power to vote away the democratic future of their children and their children’s children.”
Trump is not constrained by either the form or the “clear values” of the U.S. Constitution, Epps says: “These values don’t bind Donald Trump; norms of decency do not apply; he shrugs off the very burden of fact itself. Like dictators of the Old World, he uses his mass media power to lie, to insult, to strip individuals of their dignity, to commit the grossest libels of religious and national groups, and to encourage persecution, torture, and public violence.
“[…] He is, in other words, a figure out of authoritarian politics, not the American tradition; and a democratic constitution that empowers such a leader has misfired badly.”
Epps contributed several other essays to The Atlantic last month: