The impact of critical mass on a Trump Administration

The term “critical mass” came into vogue near the end of World War II when it was identified as “the amount of fissile material needed to sustain a nuclear fission.” In more layman’s terms, it’s the amount of radioactive material needed to detonate a nuclear bomb.

But critical mass does not need to just apply to the physical sciences. If you are a teacher, you have a sense of how many students with significant behavioral problems you can handle in your classroom. Anything over the critical mass will make your day, week, or school year close to miserable.

The same principle applies to government, specifically a presidential administration. The question is, “how many {fill in the blank}-type people in an administration will tilt it to become dysfunctional. Here are some nominees for [fill in the blank}:

  • Psychologically unstable
  • Not particularly intelligent
  • Narrow-minded
  • Narcissistic
  • Mean, hateful, possibly sadistic
  • Vengeful

A critical mass of each of these types of people can wreak havoc in an organization, but if you have a combination of individuals with these characteristics and try to run the U.S. government with them, then you have a major problem. And it seems that this is exactly what America has now.

Obviously we start with President-elect Donald Trump. The top man seems to have disabilities for governance that include almost all of the above-mentioned characteristics. The idea of having a president who is unstable, petty, vengeful and narcissistic means that virtually every part of government which depends upon top-down decision-making will be at risk. Many people have said that Trump would not be that bad if he had an “adult in the room.”

So far, the candidates to be the adult in the room are rather limited and seem to stretch the point. Vice-President-elect Mike Pence may not be best characterized by any of the descriptors above, but his views on gay rights, women’s reproductive rights and a host of other issues are so void of rationality and empathy that his role as an adult can only be quite limited. Reince Priebus has been called a mainstream Republican by some, but he has been tight with Tea Party representatives from the beginning. He has no experience in governance. He will have to be self-taught because no one presence seems to know how to responsibly move the levers of power. Mitt Romney might fit the category of an adult in the room, but if he would be like other secretaries of state, he would be out of the country half the time and completely left out of the palace plots and intrigue behind his back.

Steve Bannon, the Breitbart agent in the room, has repeatedly expressed demeaning comments about African-Americans, women, immigrants and virtually anyone else who is not a white male of European stock. He has been charged with assaulting his former wife and stability is not would he would bring to the table.

General Michael Flynn is slated to be Trump’s National Security Advisor. This is a man who was recently fired because he was too temperamental to be in the loop of classified information related to the national interest. He did much to stain the image of Hillary Clinton. Reports are that when he was in initial national security briefings with candidate Donald Trump, he had to be calmed down by Chris Christie, and later by Rudy Giuliani. Neither of those qualify as calming influences.

Giuliani could wind up getting a top position and his erratic behavior includes announcing in a news conference that he would be divorcing his second wife.

Some people thought that campaign chairperson Kellyanne Conway was somewhat calm and clever like a fox, but her recent tirades against Romney make one question her solemnity and ability to be a team player.

There is no scientific way to quantify what would be a critical mass of dysfunctional people in the White House or other power spots in the Trump Administration. While we can’t quantify it, we can see individual and group behavior which reflects psychological instability, lack of intelligence, narrow-mindedness, narcissism, mean and hateful and vengeful. As is the case with disturbed rats in a cage, dysfunction escalates and concern for the common good deteriorates.

I am among those who would like to find a peaceful and constitutional way to prevent a Trump administration from assuming power. In the United States Code, Title Three, Section Seven, the date for the electors to “meet” is the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This year that is December 19. Individual electors are empowered to vote for whomever they wish. If enough electors recognize the threat of a psychologically unbalanced president and presidency, they could vote for someone other than Trump. If just two dozen electors who otherwise might vote for Trump choose to vote for someone else, the election would be thrown into the House of Representatives. Yes, the House is Republican-controlled, but through the convoluted manner in which they would vote for president, they could anoint a Republican other than Trump if they wished.

We are twenty days away and all of us need to consider strategies that can only work in this window of opportunity. Maybe recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan will do the trick, but that does not seem likely. Our best chance now may be for 538 electors who are human beings, not robots, to foresee the danger and take preventative action. Something to consider.

Arthur Lieber Arthur Lieber (452 Posts)

Since 1969, Arthur Lieber has been teaching and working in non-profit educational organizations. His focus has been on promoting critical, creative, and enjoyable learning for students in informal settings. In the 2010 mid-term elections, he was the Democratic nominee for US Congress from Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.