The “Outsider” Danger

What too many people accept without truly understanding is that society – any society – is held together by two sets of rules – those set forth in law and those adopted and accepted through custom and habit.  Some societies rely far more heavily on religious and historical customs than on laws, and other societies, such as the United States, rely more heavily on written laws and written constitutional frameworks.

But even in the United States, there are customs that have the force of law – until they don’t.  For example, George Washington set an example of a President serving only two terms… and that custom had the force of law for some 154 years… until Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to run for a third term.  Ten years after that, the 22nd amendment, limiting Presidential terms to two, became law, because, once the custom was flouted, anyone else might flout it as well.

We’re now seeing another “custom” flouted.  Until Trump decided that immigrants were cause for a national emergency, no U.S. President would have considered unarmed and often starving refugees or illegal immigrants as a national emergency.  In fact, at one point in our history, no immigrant was “illegal.”

What Trump did in proclaiming a national emergency for political purposes was break the custom that a national emergency be a truly national emergency. No matter what rhetoric is employed, those refugees and illegal immigrants do not threaten the nation’s overall economy or safety, which the “customary” and accepted definition of national emergency historically required. The failure to fund a southern border wall is not an “emergency,” and no historical U.S. politician would ever have considered it so.

Trump is not a politician.  He is a self-serving and narcissistic demagogue who has neither the knowledge nor the understanding of American political culture… and he represents the true downside and danger of investing power in an “outsider.”   Outsiders don’t care about customs, or about why certain practices have been followed. Sometimes, for a nation, that is useful, but it is always dangerous.

Unless Congress acts, as it did in the case of the 22nd Amendment, or unless the Supreme Court rules against Trump, any subsequent President will be able to define on his or her own terms what a national emergency is.  Will it be the widespread possession and use of firearms?  Or perhaps strikes by public employees? Or “unfair tariffs” by other nations? Or possibly the “epidemic” of abortion?

Electing “outsiders” is seldom the best way to break “gridlock” because lots of other things can get broken in the process, often disastrously, as we’re seeing not only here in the United States, but elsewhere in the world.

But then, too often when people get angry or frustrated, habits or customs and the reasons for them get discarded without any thought for what will result.

10 thoughts on “The “Outsider” Danger”

  1. JakeB says:

    While I believe you are correct in pointing out the problem with electing outsiders, at the same time this problem of the corruption of norms isn’t crucially dependent on the outsider (as your example of changes in presidential terms illustrates). A similar and similarly dangerous corruption, which has been driven by insiders, has been the abandonment of declarations of war by Congress with the devolving of authority and power to the Excecutive branch. This is owed in part to the immense military resources the US has, which makes it able to do so many things without further commitments (barring the immense drain on the treasury each year, of course) along with, no doubt, Congress’s desire to avoid responsibility for having declared a new war.

    1. Tom says:

      Another example of insider corruption in our government systems of checks and balances is the present Republican Senate pursuit of judicial branch control at the expense of deferring to the Presidency in everything else. I suppose this indicates that the Republicans believe that our judicial system is corruptible.

      The hope with outsider election is that there would be a re-awakening of the administration. The Trump administration is an outlier which unfortunately depends upon change via destruction without planned replacement or consideration of cost.

  2. R. Hamilton says:

    Even if it’s far from the highest historical rate, 200,000 apprehended per year (of who knows how many not apprehended) is still IMO far too high.

    And appeals to compassion are irrelevant; coming here is NOT a right, certainly not to avoid poverty, arguably not even to save their life except _maybe_ when that is persecuted by their own government without due process (that’s pretty much the limit of legitimate asylum claims). Short of outright civil war, rampant violence and criminality and deprivation do not qualify.

    The recent caravans, and a survey indicating something like 42 million people just from central and south America want to come here, is plenty of reason to put in place, regardless of Congress or anyone else, the means needed to cut the flow to a trickle. We can’t handle millions; mere tens of thousands of the best and brightest, sure; but no more. Let our own useless choose between the jobs nobody else wants and starvation; nothing except education through high school should be provided to anyone other than as the fruit of their own labor, excepting only those injured in public service in the line of duty. And anyone that hires an illegal, rents to them, or serves them in any way except with transportation back where they came from, should be jailed and severely fined.

    1. Chris says:

      I look forward to our current president being “jailed and severely fined” for his companies hiring undocumented workers, since as the CEO the buck stops with him.

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        Article I, Section 9, clause 3:
        No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

        Article I, Section 10, clause 1:
        No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

        ex post facto | ˌeks pōst ˈfaktō |
        adjective & adverb
        with retroactive effect or force: [as adjective] : ex post facto laws.

        1. If Trump hired undocumented aliens, he’s liable under law unless charges aren’t filed before the statute of limitations is exceeded. That has nothing to do with ex post facto laws.

          1. R. Hamilton says:

            A reasonable point; but present penalties are rather modest compared to what I was suggesting; pocket change for him, not that it would hit him directly anyway, since I very much doubt that he personally hired them. If penalties were increased, that wouldn’t take effect immediately, giving employers ample time to apply eVerify to all that it hadn’t been applied to, and get rid of those that failed.

  3. Hannabel says:

    “since I very much doubt that he [d.trump] personally hired them”

    Easy there ‘R’; your frequent & biased BS is making another unwanted appearance.

    1. Trump probably didn’t personally hire them. The question would be whether the policies he approved were in accord with law and whether he exercised adequate oversight.

      1. Alan says:

        Which is to say that there is absolutely no way he will ever be punished for the policies as that sort of proof will be impossible to find.

        Realistically, how many large company CEO’s could be successfully charged for such a crime? Every major public company I have ever seen has very loudly proclaimed rules on hiring, worker’s rights, etc. Posted in break rooms, HR office spaces and through out any place employees might congregate.

        The policies are almost all well known and if they’re not being followed at a local level it won’t be due to some one higher in the corporate food chain not making the policy known or detailing requirements.

        I seriously doubt anyone in the senior levels of the Trump organization would be so foolish as to put pen to paper in any format and leave a document trail behind which suggests in any fashion that illegals should be hired at lower wages to save money.

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