It hit me today as I pondered the maliciousness of the Trump campaign, that we have seen the same angry breaking of ethical norms and unprofessional nastiness carry the day before.
Think back to the 1990s and Geoffrey Fieger’s legal representation of Jack Kevorkian.
Fieger engaged in vituperous name calling against those who opposed Kevorkian, much as Trump does today against his political opponents.
Fieger continually twisted facts and reinvented history. So does Trump.
Fieger unleashed the kind of snarling intimidation that Trump deploys.
Indeed, Fieger once went so out of control–essentially accusing the prosecutor to the jury of engaging in criminal harassment–that the judge called a mistrial based on defense behavior. Overturning tables paid. Kevorkian was never retried.
Fieger weakened the law as an institution, not just because of his unprofessionalism, not just because the tactics worked–Fieger never lost a Kevorkian case–but because he exposed the institution as impotent and incapable of defending its own norms and rules.
Trump is demonstrating that our political institutions are similarly impotent.
But those successes did not translate into more general popularity. When Fieger ran for governor of Michigan, he was trounced.
Trump is Geoffrey Fieger on a grander and more important stage. He is heedlessly wrecking the system to get what he wants.
It could well get him the nomination. But it won’t make him president.