Politicians, including Donald Trump, seemed to have learnt very little from an election in which anger towards them overtook all other emotions. Voters dismayed at the arrogance and dishonesty of politicians who forget whom they work for spurred 46 per cent of the electorate to vote for an outsider precisely because he was not experienced.
Consider what we have seen from Trump:
• He refuses to release his tax returns, as marchers throughout the country decried on Saturday
• He refuses to sever ownership of his businesses
• He refuses to eschew monies and benefits, eg, copyrights, from foreign governments that violate the emoluments clause
• He refuses to pay for his own trips — numbering seven — to and from his Mar-a-Lago property. Instead, somewhere between $7 million and $21 million is charged to taxpayers. (The Associated Press reports: “With President Donald Trump making his seventh presidential trip this weekend to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, government watchdogs and Democrats are once again seeing dollar signs; namely, $3 million. That’s a widely used estimate of what each journey costs taxpayers. ... A conservative group that closely monitors presidential expenses puts the tab for each Mar-a-Lago visit closer to $1 million.”) That comes on top of security costs associated with his wife and son’s residence in New York — no one suggests they be forced to move, only that the billionaire’s family pick up the tab.
• He now refuses to release the White House visitors logs, which tell us who is visiting the President in housing provided by the taxpayers
Trump now epitomises the greedy, self-indulgent politicians he ran against. Moreover, he seems to be setting the tone for others.
The Hill reported: “Representative Markwayne Mullin, an Oklahoma Republican, faced off with constituents at a town hall this week, telling the members of the audience that they don’t pay his salary.
“You say you pay for me to do this? That’s bullcrap,” Mullin said at the town hall in Jay, Oklahoma, according to a video of the incident.
“I pay for myself. I paid enough taxes before I got here and continue to through my company to pay my own salary. This is a service. No one here pays me to go.”
After constituents pushed back, Mullin reiterated that being a lawmaker is not “how I make my living”. They in fact do pay his salary. Since he does not appreciate that fundamental fact, they can arrange to stop paying him — by replacing him with a more appreciative figure.
Other lawmakers hide from town halls or insult voters by alleging they are getting paid to show up and demand answers. It is as if they believe they answer to no one but themselves — and big donors, who enjoy easy access to “their” member of Congress.
Lawmakers are responsible for their own action, but it is hard to deny that Trump has set a new, low standard for public officials. Trump’s conduct described earlier is not his greatest sin. In our book, his deliberate ignorance, his attacks on a free press, his xenophobia, his misogyny and his cruel policy initiatives — from deportation of non-criminals to attempts to strip away access to healthcare coverage — are far worse.
However, voters have every right to be enraged by Trump’s greed in making money from his office — Mar-a-Lago membership doubled since he won the presidency, and yet he still charges taxpayers for his trips there — and arrogance in denying his employer, the American people, access to basic information in relation to who he sees and what he pays in taxes.
Voters should remember this the next time they go to the ballot box.
• Jennifer Rubin is a journalist. She writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post.