Commentary: The office is more than the man

By John Krull
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS – They booed him.

When the announcer at the World Series game between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals introduced the president of the United States, the crowd booed. The people gathered for the peak event of the nation’s pastime booed for a long time.

John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

They chanted, “Lock him up!”

They chanted, “Impeach him!”

There are those out there, I suppose, who will argue that this is just a case of rough-and-tumble justice, of turnabout being fair play.

Donald Trump, after all, is the man who gloried in inciting crowds to chant “Lock her up!” at his rallies, even after he’d defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and he had taken up residence in the Oval Office. He also is the man who takes glee in degrading or demeaning anyone who has the audacity to disagree with or question him by foisting dismissive and insulting nicknames on them.

The thinking goes that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

I can see the appeal of this “he-did-it-so-I-can-too” kind of thinking. Anyone who has ever been three years old has thought that way. Most of us grow out of it.

Or maybe just some of us.

Don’t count me as part of the crew that thinks it’s okay to boo the president.

It’s not that I have any great affection or sympathy for Donald Trump.

I support his impeachment because it’s a step in the process of determining whether he has broken our nation’s laws and violated his oath of office. The trial in the U.S. Senate, where his party has a comfortable majority, can settle the questions of “due process” the president and his followers raise with regularity and with little basis in fact, law or history.

Because his party does have the majority in the Senate, President Trump will have all the advocates and defenders he needs to see that his rights and prerogatives are preserved.

So, if I support impeachment, why does the booing of the president at the World Series bother me?

Because it’s crass.

It’s disrespectful to the office.

Worse, it’s disrespectful to the nation itself.

And it’s one more sign that Donald Trump is “winning.”

He’s dragging more and more of the country – more and more of our fellow citizens – down to his level.

This is wrong for at least two reasons.

The most practical of those reasons is also the least important. Donald Trump wants to degrade our national dialogue because he operates better in the muck than anyone else does. In a contest of moral and ethical limbo, no one will beat him because the few people who are willing to go as low as he is are nowhere near as skilled at invective as he is.

In a race through the sewer, he always will win.

But there’s another, larger reason.

This just shouldn’t be who we are.

Years ago, when I was executive director of what is now the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, people – members, volunteers – sometimes would argue with me that we should fight fire with fire. The fact that folks on the other side deliberately would mischaracterize or even lie about what our positions were or question our love of country and family would enrage many in our camp. They said we should be just as nasty in return.

The other side’s tactics angered me, too.

But I counseled then – and I still believe today – that we shouldn’t let the lowest common denominator set the standard for conduct. The principles we were defending were designed to liberate the human spirit. If we stood for anything, it was that people should be free to discover the best in themselves.

Not the worst.

It wasn’t a victory, I said, for us to become the mirror image of that which we oppose.

But that’s what we’re letting Donald Trump do to our country.

To us.

The presidency is more than the person who occupies the office.

We need to remember that.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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