The Case Against Serving Trump

Omarosa Manigault, Trump’s director of African-American outreach, said after the election, “Let me just tell you, Mr. Trump has a long memory and we’re keeping a list.” She was talking about a list of anti-Trump Republicans, leaving to the imagination what other lists are stored in Mr. Trump’s long memory.

I hope, and want desperately to believe, that worrying about all this is sheer paranoia; but the only way to discount all these sinister threats is by assuming complete mendacity on Trump’s part – and by assuming that no forces in his administration take seriously what Trump meant only as a sales pitch. Amid such uncertainties, nightmares aren’t the worst place to start thinking about the morality of government service.

Masha Gessen, writing in NYRDaily, fears the worst: that Trump will be an AmericanErdoğan or a Putin on the Potomac. (A Russian-American journalist, she is a careful student of Putin’s m.o.) She offers five chilling “rules for survival” in autocratic government:

Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization…

Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. …

Institutions will not save you. …

Be outraged. …

Don’t make compromises.

Under such dire circumstances, my answer to the moral question is straightforward. Don’t go into the administration. If you’re in it when things start going south, get out. Don’t tell yourself you can tame the beast, because the beast will tame you. And don’t let the words “lesser evil” pass your lips. You will be fooling yourself.


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