One of Japan’s greatest military strategists, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, warned his leaders early on about the danger of attacking the United States and Great Britain in their campaign to conquer to Pacific. Their only chance of possible success lay in the pre-emptive destruction of the U.S. naval fleet in Pearl Harbor. Even then, he is quoted as saying “I shall run wild considerably for the first six months or a year. But I have utterly no confidence for the second and third years.”
Yamamoto’s warning was eerily prescient. Nearly six months to the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, at the Battle of Midway (June 4-6, 1942) the United States Navy sunk four of Japan’s six aircraft carriers, effectively ending Japan’s dominance of the seas.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Yamamoto was reported to have said “We have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.” While he may not have used these actual words, that was, in effect, the result of their attack.
In much the same way, the election of Donald Trump had the same effect on the American people. Before the advent of Trump, many did not choose to exercise their right to vote – possibly the greatest weapon in our power. For many, there didn’t seem to be a great deal of difference who was elected president.
We took for granted that whoever was president, rightly or wrongly, would put the interests of America before that of a foreign power. Never in our history had a president done otherwise. Now we are awakening to the fact that our Donald Trump and members of his campaign might have colluded with not just a foreign power, but an enemy foreign power, to sway the election.
We took for granted that whoever was president would not use his office for his own personal enrichment and that of his family. Before Trump’s election, very few Americans were familiar with the Emoluments clause of the Constitution. It had never been an issue before. Preceding presidents either divested themselves of their business interests (Jimmy Carter was forced to sell his peanut farm) or placed them in a blind trust during their term in office. Trump has done neither. Instead we have government agencies publicly hawking sales of his daughter’s book; Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. promoting its ties to the White House; and most recently, a member of his son-in-law’s family blatantly offering U.S. business visas in China in exchange for doing business.
We took for granted that the president and his family would spend the majority of their time in the White House, only occasionally taking trips to family homes or going on vacation. Since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American taxpayers have funded a secure and private retreat for our presidents at Camp David. It even includes a golf course.
Instead, we are now paying close to half a million dollars A DAY, to provide security for the First Lady and her son to remain in their lavish penthouse in New York City. Since his inauguration we have been paying the president to spend nearly every weekend at his own private resort in Florida. He even has the nerve to charge the Secret Service, the men and women sworn to defend him with their own lives, for the golf carts they have to use while he plays endless rounds of golf.
Trump has been running wild for nearly four months now. But the people are waking up. The Women’s March, held the day after his inauguration, far exceeded the numbers who showed up for Trump’s swearing in. However, instead of slowing down, as many had predicted, the marches are continuing. Not just in the big cities like New York and Los Angeles, but in “fly-over America” people are showing up by the thousands. Instead of experiencing fatigue, the people are becoming more and more energized – against Trump.
Congress is also experiencing the fallout from the Trump presidency. Constituents, who once remained safely and quietly at home, are overflowing town hall meetings with their representatives and Senators. Some meetings have been so heated that other members of Congress are avoiding their constituents altogether. The voice mails of many members have been filled to overflowing with messages from concerned citizens. Whether they listen or not, these members know that it is dangerous to ignore their voters.
Several key special elections are being held to replace members of Congress appointed by Trump to positions in his administration. Perhaps none has drawn as much attention or as much money as the hotly contested special election to fill the seat left vacant by Rep. Tom Price, the new Secretary of HHS. The GA06 district has been a “safe” Republican seat dating back to the days of Newt Gingrich. Tom Price easily won re-election in 2016, besting a nondescript Democrat opponent. On the other hand, Trump barely won the district over Clinton by just 1.5% of the vote.
However, a relative newcomer, and a liberal Democrat to boot, has the Republican Party shaking in their boots and their pocketbooks. In a 17-way “jungle” primary held in April, Jon Ossoff managed to capture 48% of the vote. Not enough to win the election outright, but enough to put him in a runoff against Republican Karen Handel. One interesting result of the initial primary was that the more closely aligned a candidate was to Donald Trump, the worse they did.
The words of political commentator Rick Wilson seem to be haunting the Republican Party – “Everything that Trump touches, dies.”
Trump has gotten away with a lot, such as not keeping his promise to release his tax returns as has every presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter, because the people and the press let him. During the campaign, very few challenged his outrageous claims (We will build a wall and Mexico will pay for it) or outright lies. Those days are rapidly coming to an end.
Like Yamamoto, Trump may run wild for six months to a year. But Trump has also awakened the sleeping giant of ordinary American men and women and filled us with a terrible resolve. No longer can we take for granted that the people we elect to public office have our best interests at heart. No longer can we take for granted our precious right to vote. No longer can we afford to allow another charlatan like Donald Trump to slip by unnoticed until it is too late. Talk of impeachment or resignation may be premature, but in a time when an administration is under an active, criminal investigation by the FBI, who knows what will happen or when.
If Trump’s legacy to America is one where the people are actively engaged in the politics and the government of our country; one where a candidate is judged not by his words but by his actions; one where we recognize the danger of electing a showman rather than a statesman; then his legacy may be truly a good one for all of us.