Since he was elected in November, historians have likened Trump to the depraved Roman emperor Caligula. Those comparisons may ultimately prove to be unfair to Caligula.
In his Friday column for the New York Times, Paul Krugman notes that the president’s Roman counterpart never incited ethnic violence, and that governance did not effectively halt under his rule. And when Caligula became “truly intolerable,” Rome’s elite found a way to get rid of him.
American civil society, on the other hand, appears to be unraveling in real time, Krugman writes:
Journalists have stopped seizing on brief moments of not-craziness to declare Trump “presidential”; business leaders have stopped trying to curry favor by lending Trump an air of respectability; even military leaders have gone as far as they can to dissociate themselves from administration pronouncements.
For the moment, stocks are up, new jobs are on the market and public services are still functioning. But as Krugman reminds us, a “series of scary deadlines” are looming on the horizon. The government could shut down if Congress doesn’t reach a new budget deal, go into default if the debt ceiling is not raised, or take away coverage from millions of kids if the Children’s Health Insurance Plan is not renewed.
Trump has proven himself entirely unfit for office, so Republican leaders in Congress must ensure that critical deadlines are met. And Paul Krugman isn’t holding his breath.
There is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Caligula was ultimately assassinated, but Congress is lawfully allowed to dismiss a rogue president. And yet a third of the country still supports Trump, “so all we get from the vast majority of elected Republicans are off-the-record expressions of ‘dismay’ or denunciations of bigotry that somehow fail to name the bigot in chief.”
As Republican leaders continue to pander to their white supremacist base, Krugman writes that “it’s hard to imagine anything—up to and including evidence of collusion with a foreign power—that would make them risk losing those voters’ support.”
Krugman ends on a somber note, observing “we’re stuck with a malevolent, incompetent president whom nobody knowledgeable respects, and many consider illegitimate.”
Our only hope is that the opposition can recapture Congress in the mid-term elections.
“If that doesn’t happen…God save America,” Krugman laments. “Because all indications are that the Republicans won’t.”
Read his full column at the New York Times.