Open Letter to the White House


I wanted to start this letter on the 100th day of your Presidency but I couldn’t wait. I fear I won’t recognize my country by then. I also wanted to start it with “Dear President Donald Trump,” but I couldn’t force myself to type those words. I’m not alone in that. Courtesy considered but not extended.

In addition, I wanted to avoid reference to specific policies. I might agree with your action on TPP and oppose your restrictions on immigration, but that is not the point. My objection is deeper. It is to the WAY you approach the office that I think is most damaging. Please consider a different approach in governance. Please consider “presiding” rather than “ruling.” I know Bannon will not agree with that offering. There is nothing about that man that is (small d) democratic. But your place in history depends on that simple choice.

America has survived several “bad” presidents. It has also failed to progress during periods governed by brilliant men who didn’t seem to have the knack for leadership. Which way will you want to be remembered? Today, going on only these few first days, it looks like you think a President issues edicts. There is something to be said for unilateral action by a President when faced with a recalcitrant congress or opposition. You certainly don’t have a recalcitrant Congress. This is a Republican majority Senate, House and, if they approve your recommendation for the Supreme Court, it will be a conservative majority court as well. In that situation, using the prescribed processes for legislation goes much further in creating an image of a President of the United States using the power of government, proving that elections have consequences. But twenty Executive Orders in ten days shows a different kind of personality. It seems you don’t trust your Senate or House. Do you fear they will turn on you? And you don’t seem to trust the Courts. I know, it takes a long time to have the courts review and rule. You appear to only trust the unilateral powers of the office of the President and you are apparently dedicated to the exercise and expansion of those powers.

In this way you appear to me to be very much like Nixon but far more impatient and less respectful of the legislative process of representative democracy. How else should I take it? That begins to look like disrespect for and assault on the state itself. And it’s not like Bannon hasn’t said exactly that kind of thing very recently in public. I’m open to a different interpretation, but I don’t find one. People are using the words “coup,” “war,” “shadow leader” and the like. No one is asserting this is a “military junta.” In many ways the military is as shocked over these actions as the rest of the American populace.

This blitzkrieg of orders has me looking for historical counterparts. I can only find them in the worst possible scenarios. All of them fall variously into the term “regime change.” And I understand about how political thinking and action tends to run in cycles. It is often called a pendulum swing. But in this case, it feels like the clock fell off the wall and is bounding across the floor, spraying springs and gears with each overreaching new order. I think your approach most resembles Benito Mussolini’s rise to power, but others point to Hitler. I think Hitler is less like you, especially since, in the beginning, Hitler really admired Mussolini, even calling him a mentor. I don’t think you are working in admiration of anyone else, but the change in direction of our government might be more akin to other social and political revolutions. Lenin? Stalin? Mao? It may be too early to make those kinds of judgments. That is the purpose of this letter.

Please change the way you approach this job. You are not rescuing a failing company you just purchased at a discount. You can’t cut up its departments and sell off the ones that aren’t “producing.” It should be your goal to make them produce, not make them ineffective, weak and irrelevant. Government is very different from business. There should be no elite shareholders. We are all in this together. Think of us as customers.

I appeal to you today on a level I believe will have a chance of touching you. Your place in history is certain, now that you have ascended to the Presidency. The perception of your place in history is now up to how well you govern, how your hand holds the tiller of the ship of state. A tiller needs a steady hand with an eye on the safe passage of the ship. It does not need a hand looking for a chokehold, or a rapid change of course that can threaten to capsize us. I encourage you to reveal this kind of governance very soon. The waters are growing rougher each day. And the winds are dirty.

I have been an American for 66 years and I have never seen a fourteen-day span that has shaken my faith in leadership like these first two weeks of the days of Trump. Please consider moderating your approach. This might be my last polite appeal.

Steve D. Marsh
American Citizen

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