Opinion: Four Years of Trump Has Destroyed a Politician’s Word


U.S. Senate

The United States Senate chamber. Here, senators have repeatedly violated the trust of the American people by refusing to adhere to the basic principles of trustworthiness and transparency.

James Connor, Contributor

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“She will live on in what she did to improve the law and the lives of all of us. And yet still, Ruth is gone and we grieve. Let us have a moment of silence for reflection.” Those are the solemn words uttered by Chief Justice John Roberts at the funeral for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The current administration took no time in finding a replacement for the sorely missed Justice Ginsburg. On September 26 — a full three days before Roberts gave his eulogy for the late Justice at the September 29 service — President Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a judge with questionable qualifications for the high court. Before long, the United States Senate confirmed Barrett, making her the fifth female justice to serve on the Supreme Court.

Many Americans, however, took issue with the speed of her confirmation. Many pointed President Barack Obama’s thwarted nomination of Merrick Garland, citing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell comments in 2016 that Americans deserve “a voice in the filling of this vacancy”. He explained that the Senate, controlled by a Republican majority at the time, would not confirm any nominee put forth by President Obama because the nomination was within an election year.

Fast forward to the present. With McConnell still serving as Senate Majority Leader, many have compared Barrett’s and Garland’s nominations. While McConnell refused to confirm Garland because of an approaching election, he reversed course and permitted Barrett to be confirmed just eight days before the 2020 election — an election in which a significant number of had already been cast. And he wasn’t the only one. Across the board, Republican senators neglected the precedent they had set four years ago and approved Barrett for the Court.

Barrett’s nomination is nowhere near the Trump Administration’s first flirtation with hypocrisy. In June 2020, the toppling of monuments depicting confederate soldiers and other racist historical figures accompanied the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. The President responded quickly, stating at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma that, “The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments ― our beautiful monuments”. Soon after delivering these remarks, he passed an executive order increasing the possible prison sentence for desecration of a monument. Yet President Trump himself is responsible for the desecration of a number of the country’s largest monuments. By moving to decrease the size of national parks and remove environmental protections, the Trump administration has defaced national monuments while decrying the same actions of protesters.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasized the blatant hypocrisy that characterizes the current administration. On April 17, 2020, when the pandemic had already claimed 40,000 lives, President Trump attacked former President Obama’s handling of the 2009 swine flu pandemic (which resulted in approximately 12,000 deaths as reported by the CDC). During the 2020 Vice Presidential debate, Vice President Mike Pence made a similar argument. Instead of focusing on the growing number of COVID-19 deaths, Trump has chosen to attack the previous administration’s pandemic response.

The hypocrisy has continued through the current election. President Trump, Republican members of Congress, and GOP state officials have actively attacked mail-in ballots since the beginning of the election cycle. One common argument is the unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots encourage voter fraud, an assertion the President has made time and time again. Despite this, the President himself requested a mail-in ballot from Florida in August 2020, implying that the President is willing to publicly decry something, yet reverse course when it benefits him.

This all points to a troubling trend in the modern political landscape: one’s word is no longer one’s bond. Politicians — already infamously labeled with the stereotype of being dishonest — have encouraged hypocritical actions; going back on one’s word and refusing to maintain precedents has simply become part of the game. While this degradation has been more obvious under the current administration, Trump is not alone in fault. The politicians who have enabled the current President — from agency directors and cabinet members, to senators and representatives — have repeatedly violated the trust of the American people by refusing to adhere to the basic principles of trustworthiness and transparency.

The American people deserve leaders who will not change their opinions after four years because they have political control. The American people deserve an administration that will not condemn protesters while committing the same crime. The American people deserve an executive branch that will not blame its predecessors for its own failures. And the American people deserve a president who will not change the rules of an election when it suits him or her best. The American people have witnessed the glorification of hypocrisy under the Trump Administration — the next few days will decide whether there remains any hope for the word of a politician.