Email #218: “family syndrome”?

Eric Trump tweeted on Tuesday about his brother’s collusion scandal: “This is the EXACT reason they viciously attack our family! They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other.”

Oddly, Mr. Trump is right. This is EXACTLY what is so concerning about the President and his family, including his son-in-law and daughter bending anti-nepotism laws by serving in his administration. Though not uncommon in younger, corruption-challenged democracies, the U.S. has never seen a President’s family members hold such influential positions before.

John Girling in his book “Corruption, Capitalism and Democracy” explains: “the way in which personal loyalties muddy the waters of legality is characteristic of ‘new nations,’” but “the clash between patron-client relations (the more powerful patron supports or promotes clients in return for ‘services’ useful to the patron) and legal-rational standards of administration and political decision-making is far from being monopolized by Third World countries.”

Jeremy Boissevai gives the example of Italy: “The rights and obligations that derive from membership to [family] provide the individual with his or her basic moral code…. Other values and organizational principles are of secondary importance. If they interfere with his ability to carry out his primary obligation to his family, he combats them with intrigue, force and violence if necessary.”

Not only does this describe the literal Trump family, it also applies to the GOP generally. When House leaders were joking last year about Donald Trump being paid by Putin, Speaker Ryan said: “This is an off the record — NO LEAKS — alright? This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

Republican Robert Ehrlich of The Washington Examiner wrote on Tuesday about “a condition (henceforth to be called “family syndrome”) that afflicts a subset of Republicans who have never been enthusiastic participants in Team Trump….  Yet, the vast majority have stuck with Trump, and it is not merely because of common ground on most issues. They are digging in for the same reason that family can criticize family — but not so much outsiders…. which may give Trump a longer-lasting reign than his multitude of critics could possibly imagine.”

Do you suffer from “family syndrome” too? It would explain your consistent inability to acknowledge let alone criticize even the most egregious of the President’s behaviors. Your moral code seems to be based on loyalty to the GOP, with the values of democracy and the organizational principles of the Constitution taking secondary importance.

Sadly, it is unlikely the President feels such loyalty to you or any other members of your party. I am curious how deeply he feels it toward members of his actual family. Will he distance himself from Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner as their roles in the collusion scandal attract increasing attention? Will you ignore them too, “digging in” deeper to give the President “a longer-lasting reign” than any legal or rational standard would allow? Just how muddy do the waters have to get before you climb out to save yourself?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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