Donald Trump has already made it clear he’s a angry and mean. It also appears to some that he exhorts his followers to engage in violence against non-white persons who appear at his rallies. That is a pattern also reflected in his statements that the families of terrorists and ISIS are fair targets in the war on terror. While there appears to be some backing away from killing children by Trump, the fact is, he believes that he can simply give orders and they will be followed.
Not so fast. Rarely do we see military persons get directly involved in political campaigns, yet here we are seeing the military is letting it be known that they won’t follow illegal orders. Trump says that they will follow his orders because, “I’m a leader… I’ve always been a leader, I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they are going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.” But, that’s not what leadership is all about, at all. People follow a leader (orders) because they give over the power to lead them. Trump has already heard from those he intends to lead that they will not give over the power to lead to him.
Of course, Trump will probably just say, “You’re Fired!” to the military brass who buck his orders. They will move another one up to the position, who will be fired until eventually they find someone who is willing to ignore/bend the law to keep the high job. Trump will get his way, eventually.
We’ve seen this play out before in the so-called Saturday Night Massacre. On October 20, 1973, Nixon has realized that Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox is actually doing his job figuring out that the Watergate scandal goes all the way to the Oval Office and was seeking audio tapes from Nixon as hard evidence to support it. Nixon tells his Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox, a clear attempt to undercut a proper prosecutorial process and was counter to a promise he had made to the Congressional investigating committee. Therefore, Elliot Richardson resigns. That puts Deputy Attorney General, William Ruckelshaus in charge, who also refused Nixon and resigns (he had also promised Congress to keep hands-off Cox). That put U.S. Solicitor General Robert Bork in line to be Acting Attorney General and he was sworn in. He issued the order to fire Cox after promises from Nixon to be appointed to the Supreme Court.* Probably the only reason that eventually a new Special Prosecutor was appointed and Watergate ended up in Nixon’s resignation was that Nixon was already in the toilet that was going to flush him away. If he’d been politically stronger, more support among the public, he might have gotten his way permanently.
So, in a way, Trump is correct, he will have his orders executed, but only after the resignation or firing of several people. As history has shown, eventually he will get to someone who has ambition, lack of moral fiber, or is simply in philosophical agreement with Trump. The orders will be executed and that’s where the problem comes in. We like to imagine that Trump will simply fail in his ambitions for what he wants to do as President because he won’t be able to find people to execute illegal orders. But, he will, and that means we are all in tremendous danger should he become President.
*Side note: For any who wonder why the Democrats fought so vigorously against Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987 need only look to his actions on October 20, 1973.