Calling on a "Coalition of Normals": Let's reform the presidency to prevent another Trump

Liberals and conservatives should now have a unifying cause: Making sure this tragic farce can't happen again

Published October 15, 2018 1:00PM (EDT)

 (AP/Charlie Riedel)
(AP/Charlie Riedel)

At the risk of being categorically labeled by my friends on the left as a traitor to the liberal cause, forming an alliance with “NeverTrump” conservatives is now, in a word, mandatory. The other day, I interviewed Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College, about his book, "The Death of Expertise," and about his recent column in which he renounced his membership in the Republican Party. During our discussion, I pitched to him the idea of forming a "Coalition of Normals" to repair the structural damage of the Trump presidency. We’ll circle back to this.

I can’t remember the last time conservatives and liberals had something this colossal in common. Given the toxicity of this presidency and the accompanying decay of political debate, it seems like something positive should emerge from this crisis.

The left-right rejection of Trumpism forms a significant enough Venn-diagram overlap that ought to be parlayed into a working coalition to set about the process of getting Trump out of the White House as quickly as possible, and then to promote a series of reforms establishing, reinforcing and reconstructing as many of the rules of the presidency as possible, both written and unwritten.

We’re not talking about policy or ideology here. This Coalition of Normals ought to be limited to structural reformation with an eye on reflecting commonly held American values, right and left.

Many of these reforms need to explicitly define the overall quality of being "presidential" -- maintaining civil decorum at the highest levels of the executive branch. Yes, many strictures on the presidency already exist. There’s very little true enforceability, however, when the rules are violated.This means, among other things, taking seriously the divestiture of business interests; new regulations on usage of social media and the Presidential Records Act; bans on nepotism; new financial disclosure rules including the mandatory release of tax returns; a hard ban on the flagrant abuse of presidential resources like the Secret Service and Air Force One; rules banning presidential rhetoric that could incite unrest, including sympathizing with hate groups or slandering the free press; and so forth.

I’d also suggest aptitude tests for presidential candidates; mandatory peer-reviewed physical and mental health exams to determine fitness for office; and, most importantly, a constitutional amendment that allows for the criminal indictment of the president.

Furthermore, the message has to get out that electoral politics isn't a reality show, nor is it a bloodsport. This isn’t a game; people will die. It's not something to be taken lightly. When it comes to our leaders, be they candidates or sitting legislators, trolling the opposition or suggesting acts of violence has to end -- and now. Signatories would have to pledge to reject any candidate of either party who chooses to mimic Trump’s routine incitement of the mob -- see every instance since the campaign in which Trump instructed his Red Hats to use “Second Amendment remedies” or to "knock the crap" out of protesters. Trump's loyalists don't get it, but the rest of us do. Despite Trump’s knee-jerk posturing, the routine trolling and bullying of other Americans should never have become the purview of the presidency. To paraphrase something Bill Maher said recently: Being a dick isn't a platform.

This new Coalition of Normals should also be tasked with rebuilding the notion of factual, objective reality. Due to a wide variety of developments, especially the bottomless well of information provided by the internet, Americans have decided that everyone's an expert. But the problem with that is if everyone's an expert, then no one is. As a result, facts and reality have become bastardized into matters of stubborn opinion and bias. Too many Americans have been thoroughly brainwashed by the conservative entertainment complex, including the president. You can bet on this: American society will not flourish without voters and, even more importantly, without our political leadership reconnecting with facts and expertise.

I can't successfully pitch this to Republicans, and conservatives like Tom Nichols won't be able to pitch it to Democrats. The left can talk to the left and the right can talk to the right in language that's familiar to each political faction, but with a unified message: America can't endure any more ignorant poseurs, chaos agents and disruptors like Trump. One thing we know with certainty is that without the cooperation of NeverTrumpers with solid conservative credentials, few if any voters and officials on the right will take seriously any recommendations for legal and constitutional reforms designed to prevent the rise of another Trump.

Given the increasingly certain future of more Trump copycats repelling through the gaping holes in the system exposed by Trump’s incompetence and treachery, there’s almost nothing more important than sealing those breaches before other populist con men exploit Trump’s harrowing precedents. So who better to speak to other conservatives about fixing the Trump disaster than actual Republicans and conservatives?

Some of my friends on the left don't think this is necessary. They think it's better to scold NeverTrumpers for their past sins, even if they are willing to put their own reputations on the line -- and place nation over party -- in order to speak truth about this president. My friends are wrong about this. Progressivism is about moving forward, or should be. This is a time for grownups to step up and act accordingly to fix this wasteland of national f**kery. Everyone else can feel free to lurk in the dark corners of the discourse, vindictively ogling their "Rethuglican" memes and "liberal tears" merch (respectively). The rest of us will work together as Americans to repair the gaping chasm through which the Trumpian horror emerged.

This effort starts right now.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.