Trump’s Revolt Against Vows
"Trump’s policies, such as they are, usually come down to America breaking its promises. In the debate, he doubled-down on his previous pledge to back out of defending our NATO allies (who came to our defense after 9/11). Later in the debate he casually said we can’t defend Japan, another nation with whom we have a mutual defense treaty. This promised perfidy is of a piece with his rhetoric about tearing up deals and starting trade wars. He then brushed off the idea that stop-and-frisk policing was unconstitutional—not by taking the chance to give us any sense of how he understands the Constitution, but with flat denials. It seems that, like America’s treaties, the Constitution is just another document waiting to be renegotiated.
Donald Trump’s appeal is bound up in his transgressive persona. He does what is Just Not Done. But conservatives who spin this as simply “shaking up the corrupt norms of a stale political class” are being naïve or willfully obtuse. Trump does not care from where a norm comes. His consistent approach—as a businessman, as a showman, as a Democrat, and now as a Republican—is to violate whatever norm is in place, as a demonstration of his own power.
For forty years, every aspirant to higher office in the United States has released his or her tax returns. This is not a politically correct shibboleth, this is not an arcane tradition, this is a norm with a clear and pressing reason behind it. And Donald Trump bucks it, on the flimsiest of pretexts. If he wins the Presidency after doing this, no candidate will feel obliged to follow this norm—in an instant, a check on the powerful built up by use and custom would be torn down."