Jonah’s column points out one problem with the idea that we should all take President-elect Trump’s words “seriously” rather than “literally”: A president who operates that way may lose credibility, especially with other countries.‘’
When supporters of a politician give him a pass for not meaning his words, aren’t they also weakening his accountability to them? Nobody expects any politician to make good on every word he said during a campaign or even while in office. But politicians generally pay a political price for flagrantly breaking promises and for flip-flopping. The fact that they pay that price helps bring their conduct in office into tighter relationship with what they tell voters. To the extent a politician’s supporters let him off the hook for his specific words so long as he seems to be on their side, or to be fighting the powers that be in D.C., they’re giving him a lot more freedom of action.
Some people think that’s a very good thing. They think that the problem with American government, especially lately, is that politicians feel too bound to their voters and insufficiently free to do what they think is right. Whatever else you think of that view, you wouldn’t call it populist.