President for Life? - Liberal Resistance

President for Life?

The latest, in some ways the most egregious, example of stupidity from the so called president has to be his alleged admiration for the ability of China’s Xi Jinping to get himself declared president for life. The Chinese are free to call him what they like, but in the west, we usually call people who occupy executive positions for life “monarchs,” and we do not have one in the United States.

The news report on the Donald’s comments about this event indicate that he expressed admiration and said, “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

The only good thing about the Donald speculating about becoming president for life is that he is so clueless about how our government works that he likely has zero idea how to go about achieving that goal.

In addition to illustrating how profoundly clueless is the so called president about the history and traditions of our nation – we literally fought a war against what was at the time the world’s leading military power to remove ourselves from government by monarchy and our Constitution is in many ways a model of what a liberal republic (not a monarchy) should look like – it also illustrates the point that it is impossible to be both a good conservative and a good American.

There are no real conservatives in the United States. In the historical terms of the dichotomy’s original articulation, conservatives are monarchists who defend the divine right of the monarch to rule without question or argument. Liberals argue, in contrast, that political power emanates from the governed, who retain always the right to review the government and change it as they see fit. The time when this argument got stated in these terms also saw the end of the claim for a divine right of monarchs, and virtually no one has made such a claim in the west since that time.

While George Washington was the first president of the United States, there was some discussion of making him king of the new republic, but Washington himself quashed that idea. The United States has always been a distinctively liberal republic in the specific sense of having come into existence as the result of a revolution against a monarchy under a philosophical commitment to the equality of all persons, however badly our ancestors lived up to that commitment, many of them owning slaves. The slave owners were the closest we had to conservatives in the United States at the outset.

Real conservatism, as a statement of principles about politics, has some merit to it, inherently silly as is the idea of regarding change with suspicion, when no human can resist change. In the United States, without real conservatives, and only slave owners defending the rights of property owners above all others, what passes for conservatism has always just been a cheap excuse for racism, which is why the Donald is such an excellent avatar of the breed. He has no political beliefs or ideology to speak of. He just says what the audience in front of him wants to hear, and found that racism played well, so he stuck with it.

Now, likely without realizing it, he is making a feeble stab at being a real conservative by suggesting that we should have a president for life, which is a distinctively conservative idea, or it would be coming from someone who understood what he was talking about. In the Donald’s case, one has to suspect that the idea of president for life just appeals to his grossly inflated ego. But it presents a dichotomous proposition, as between loyalty to the ideals of conservatism or to the well established ideals of government in the United States.

One has to choose: be a good conservative, or be a good American.  One cannot be both.

We fought off the armies of a monarch to become an independent nation, then adopted a Constitution that has as its chief executive a president who has some of the characteristics of a monarch, but who must stand for election every four years no matter who s/he is, as George Washington did in 1796 to win his second and last term. Only one president in U.S. history, Franklin Roosevelt, has served more than two terms. Roosevelt won election four times, but died soon after his fourth inauguration, and so really only served three. Soon after he died, we amended the Constitution to restrict the president to two terms. Our Constitution also prohibits titles of nobility. A monarch is, in some sense, just the highest level of noble person, a position one acquires by luck of birth and antithetical to the commitment to the equality of all persons that is a founding principle of liberalism as John Locke defined it.

So the idea of president for life both violates the basic principles of U.S. government, both in the sense of abstract philosophy and in terms of the concrete terms of the Constitution, and ignores the trend of our history.

It is, in sum, typical Trump stupidity.