We’re now hip-deep into the lame duck session of the lamest duckest president. Sure, some will say it’s hard to differentiate this president’s lame duck from his usual four years of playing golf and not reading stuff and doing whatever he wants. From insane pardons to sketchy appointments, Trump has pretty much lame-ducked his entire presidency.
You’ll remember Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone in July 2020, otherwise known as the run-up to the election. But while Trump’s behavior may not have changed, his staff must now realize that as of Jan. 20, they will be out of a job.
Now is the moment that the members of the Trump administration will cash out—slightly ironic, since they’ve been cashing in on taxpayers since January 2017 by using government funds to throw dinner parties (Mike Pompeo) or never flying commercial (Steve Mnuchin), or using government employees to collect your used mattresses and favorite lotions (Scott “Tactical Pants” Pruitt, if you remember him). Some of the very worst of the crew are Scott “Let Them Die” Atlas, Wilbur “Didn’t Divest” Ross, and the man who knew better but didn’t do better—Mark Meadows.
These people—a list that also includes Chad Wolf, Stephen Miller, Mick Mulvaney, Kate Miller, and Kirstjen Nielsen—must become untouchables. The gleeful kleptocracy must come to an end. Though it’s hard to fathom that these people will be able to do better outside of government than in, the president’s daughter and senior adviser just spent $30 million on 1.84 acres in Miami. All this is to say, the rats are deserting the sinking ship and the K street labor market is about to be flooded with people we might politely call good Germans.
DO NOT HIRE THEM.
There have been shitty presidents—Nixon, Bush II, Hoover, Andrew Johnson. There have been problematic episodes: Carter’s handling of the energy crisis, Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal, Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs. But the problem with the Trump administration wasn’t some kind of lapse in judgment or policy. The problem with the Trump administration was that it operated in a way that was completely and utterly hostile to democracy at every point. Trump mused about delaying the election and then tried desperately to overturn the election results. Members of the Trump administration gleefully crushed norms (at the end of his presidency, there were 15 officials who held unlawful positions) and assaulted traditions (international election observers said Trump had made “unprecedented attempts to undermine public trust.’) The Trump administration wasn’t a normal administration; it was a slide into lite fascism. To call it anything else is a grave disservice to truth.
Some of these people are looking to launder themselves in academia. Universities, DO NOT LAUNDER THEM. Former Trump press secretary and known liar Sean Spicer was a 2017 Kennedy school fellow. At Harvard! Perhaps as a response to that lapse in judgment, The Harvard Crimson suggested imposing “accountability guidelines” when considering hiring former Trump administration officials: “We worry that in following tradition and inviting members of the Trump administration to Harvard, the school would be legitimizing this subversion of democratic principles.” Universities have a responsibility to educate, and part of education is the rejection of fascism (lite or otherwise). They can do this by not hiring any of the members of the Trump administration.
There is a time-honored tradition for members of an outgoing administration to head to cable news contributorships. For members of the Trump administration that means Fox “News,” which makes sense since Fox News is largely just a messaging arm of the Trump administration. You’ll remember Hot Tub Crime Machine (AG Matt Whitaker), Hope Hicks, and Anthony Scaramucci all found a home at Fox. Spicer ended up at Newsmax.
Other more mainstream news outlets will be tempted to hire these people, arguing that more than 70 million people voted for Trump. DO NOT OFFER THESE PEOPLE CABLE NEWS CONTRIBUTORSHIPS. They are liars, and perhaps more importantly they are not representing those 70 million Americans who voted for Trump, they are like all members of Trumpworld, degrading democratic norms or enabling others to do so. Every time a network platforms a Jason Miller or a Sebastian Gorka, that network is saying that the truth doesn’t matter and is giving that person the power to poison more Americans’ brains with disinformation. Social media may have given up trying to police misinformation, but cable news should not.
Another place Trump employees will likely try to go are to the corporate boards. A Trump staffer told The Washington Post, “But yes, it is hard to move into the corporate world. There’s just that stigma of being a Trump person.” Good! That stigma is deserved, it was earned by separating children from their parents, gassing families on the border, letting people in the blue states die of COVID-19, spreading disinformation, and presiding over out-of-control corruption.
There is a temptation to say that our guardrails held and democracy survived Trumpism and so we should just forget about Trumpism and hope it doesn’t happen again. But American democracy is actually kind of shaky; 70 percent of all Republicans don’t believe the election was fair. That’s a sign that democracy itself is hanging by a thread as Trump tries again and again to overturn the election that he definitively lost.
The next four years are a time for America to install guardrails for the next time. Trump will likely threaten to use Mar-a-Lago as his Elba while he focuses on his 2024 presidential run. America is in a precarious moment, the media can help democracy by NOT PUTTING Trump’s team of democracy killers on television. So I’m begging you, please do your part to save democracy by not rehabilitating Trumpists or Trumpism.