The Trump family is ignoring the rules of governance and what is criminal to bolster their personal financial interests all while accelerating the public’s eroding trust in institutions.

And you thought your family dinners were exciting. 

By Andrew J. Pridgen

We all have identifiers. Self-applied labels we place on our lapels. What we stand for. What we believe in: Guns, abortions, liberty, free speech, opportunity for all, opportunity for the chosen few. We dig in and we spit back out what we read, what we hear, what we see.

We parse, constantly. We take what we agree with and toss aside the fish bones of what we don’t. We seek out the like-minded, not just in real life — especially not in real life. We create and curate our own focus groups online.

Once in awhile we mix it up a little bit. Someone we know in real life posts something contrary to our opinion, so we leave a little zinger in the comments. Someone else, usually friend of the second party, comes to their defense. We either choose to move on or we come back for another. Suddenly, lines are drawn, perceptions alter, friendships change.

Over what? Over nothing.

Because opinion overrides fact now and decorum has been tossed aside for a regime rife with shortcut-takers and nervous-talking sycophants. Not a great combo. Definitely not a sustainable one. Because if anything trickles down, that does.

Barack Obama made one of the biggest mistakes of his two terms in office when upon exit he stated, “We are now all rooting for his success” when it came to then president-elect Donald J. Trump.

That’s true of normal presidents. Presidents who are qualified. Presidents who aren’t compromised. Presidents who don’t lie. …And then lie and lie and lie some more. And then lie to cover that.

His success, we have found in the early-goings, is specifically his success.

I can’t root for that.

Nobody who doesn’t share his same surname should root for that.

I think for the first couple months we had a tough time decoupling a successful president with a successful country. And it is still true, though less so than ever before in this nation’s history, that one begets the other.

But it is entirely possible now that Trump and family could get richer than beyond even their wildest and most vivid imagination breaking all the unwritten rules of using the highest position of power in this nation to stuff their own coffers while at the same time driving this polity into the ground like daddy has done his entire career for so many penny ante enterprises leaving bankruptcies, unpaid workers and fraud settlements in his wake.

It is also entirely possible that the opposite can be true. That Americans, for the first time in our brief and bruised history, can ignore the fractured policies and false promises of its commander-in-chief and go about business as usual and be entirely successful in absence of a figurehead.

For awhile anyway.

Things will eventually fall apart when your supreme leader, his children and their surrogates are conducting the most brazen daylight smash-and-grab in world history, taking our institutions and our trust in them — not to mention one another — down with them. It’s not something you wake up and see crumbling before you, suddenly. For whatever reason, we’re used to big, shocking events throwing us into gear, think: Pearl Harbor and 9/11. And we’re coded to come together, let our differences wash under the bridge and act like Americans, united.

This is different. This is a systematic erosion to depletion of our slow-churning but necessary bureaucracies that run the show behind the scenes, our shared values and — most importantly — our faith.

Speaking of the latter, faith in our institutions is at an all-time low. In 2001, Gallup surveyed how people felt about 14 different major American institutions including government, banks and the press. Each was trusted by 43 percent of Americans, on average, not the Cold War highs of 60-plus percent but not the 32 percent it fell to by 2016.

Individual breakout numbers bear an even bleaker picture. Fewer than 20 percent in this country trust the free press and that has come in large part from not only members of the mainstream media themselves pushing what is viewed as a neoliberal mandate from the coasts but from a commander-in-chief’s agenda to debase them in order to punish the proles with his lies as well as throw a fire blanket over his coverups.

Financial institutions, once the bedrock of our capitalist regime, aren’t doing so hot in the public eye either. Fewer than 30 percent of Americans trust banks after the bailout of 2008.

And if you look at Trump’s own sinking approval rating (34 percent and falling, the lowest of any modern president during his first 100 days) it shows the vast majority of us aren’t buying that snake oil either.

The reality Trump family is so beholden to debtors and at the same time smitten with wealth, they ONLY know how to steal and destroy. Their only chess move is to turn the board over. Shortcuts and subterfuge.

Yes, the Trump family is compromised by Russia, and likely other adversaries, mightily. I call it transactional treason. In its simplest terms, the Trump family’s thoughts of making nice with Russia in light of holdings there — from Don on down — was a pure business move, further implementation of the art of the steal, just on the grandest stage imaginable. And you can hardly blame a man who knows nothing of government, politics or policy (and very little, as it turns out, about ethical business) to do anything less or to be anything more.

Is using personal financial ties to lift sanctions or influence policy on behalf of a foreign adversary a crime? Is acting as an accessory to the hacking of a political party’s emails and using them to influence an election a crime? Is being commander-in-chief yet having the ability to directly draw money from more than 400 businesses, at any time, without disclosing it or having to justify how that affects decision-making a crime? Is the president’s daughter/son-in-law combo taking meetings with foreign heads of state and chief executives while working as senior federal officials and heads of their own personal business enterprises a crime?

Certainly these are legal questions Americans have never had to ponder and, if and when we do get the Trump family out of office, a whole new slew of rules stating EXACTLY what a president and his family can and cannot do will have to be codified. Because apparently it is no longer common sense that one does not use the highest office in the land specifically as a tool toward achieving untold personal and familial enrichment.

The only question that remains: Do we trust ourselves, and have faith in one another and our institutions enough to come together and do the right thing …one more time?

Andrew J. Pridgen is the author of the novella “Burgundy Upholstery Sky”. His first full-length novel will be released in late-2017.

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