The Right Wing

Don't Call It the Trump Administration—This Is a Regime

Trump has no desire or intention to govern. He wants to rule and make his word our command.

Photo Credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr

rump tweeted another string of bullying, misogynistic, anti-press rants and signaled, once again, the stark differences between a presidential administration and a White House regime. In the wake of his caustic blasts at TV personalities Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, and then his physical assault on a CNN logo, Republican congressional representatives begged him to start acting presidential. 

But the difference between an administration and a regime is not just cloaking coarseness and crudity with a veneer of civility. Lyndon Johnson, for example, was notoriously crude. Yet, he and other presidents, even the incompetent ones like Warren G Harding, did something else, too. They actually had administrations. 

They recognized the importance of governing and putting in the time and long, hard work of getting things done – be it partnering with or fighting against Congress, negotiating substantive treaties, and crafting and implementing economic and domestic policies.

Then there is Trump. He has no desire or intention to govern. He wants to rule. Where his word is our command. That’s why he admires the regimes in the Philippines, Russia, and Turkey – and despises administrations like Angela Merkel’s and Justin Trudeau’s. That is why he stages rallies where he is showered with adoration by hand-picked fans and, just as significant, why he abhors town halls and press conferences. 

That is why he issues pronouncements and executive orders rather than provides any real leadership on developing legislation and policies. That is why he demands loyalty to him – not to the US Constitution. That is why he rails against a free press calling the media “fake news” and “garbage journalism” because he can’t control its content. That is why he is contemptuous of science and scientists because it and they will not bend to his ignorance. That is why his first full Cabinet meeting was a scene straight out of Pyongyang and not Washington, DC. 

His chaotic rule has consequences. He torpedoed the stocks of Lockheed and Boeing with a couple of tweets. Dismissed and ticked off Nato. Picked fights with Canada, Mexico, Germany, and the Mayor of London. Exposed the intelligence assets of US allies just so he could appear big and important. 

The result, of course, has been just the opposite; the US under Trump’s reign has shriveled. There is a precipitous decline in the status and stature of the United States around the world. Even the Queen of England doesn’t want Trump to come over for a visit.

While governing and administration have fallen by the wayside, the signs of a Trump regime are everywhere. There’s the nepotism as son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump, who have absolutely no governmental experience whatsoever, have ensconced themselves in offices in the West Wing. 

There’s the cronyism symbolized most recently by the White House usher getting fired so the director of rooms at Trump’s DC hotel could get the job and son Eric’s wedding planner being tapped to run federal housing in New York City. 

There’s the unabashed greed as Trump (or one of his children) – on the taxpayers’ dollars – market his presidency to boost sales at his golf courses and hotel properties and arrange copyright permissions and building approvals for Trump-owned businesses in China, Argentina, and Saudi Arabia. 

There’s the gaslighting of the American people as his regime destroys or tarnishes alternate sources of facts, such as the media, the Census Bureau, and climate change data from government websites leaving only his regime as the authoritative dispenser of reality.

Meanwhile, the sinews of governing, of administration are frayed. Trump fired 46 US attorneys with no plan to replace them. Months later, those positions remain unfilled and important work left undone. In January, he also demanded the immediate resignation of US ambassadors around the globe leaving vital embassies understaffed and with no leadership. 

There was, for example, no ambassador to Japan or even a Secretary of the Navy to sort out the details of a collision between a US naval vessel and a Japanese fishing boat that killed seven American sailors. 

Throughout his regime, vacancy signs hang on key posts in the Department of Defense, Social Security, Veterans Affairs, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and more. As of June 2, barely three percent of the positions that require Senate approval have been confirmed simply because he hasn’t bothered to nominate anyone.

But Trump does not want a governing apparatus in place. He wants a regime. As America celebrates its independence, we have to ask is that what we want.


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Carol Anderson is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of African American Studies at Emory University and the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide.