Donald Trump's Abuse of Power

The Republican frontrunner asks security to take coats from protestors, and then turn them out into the freezing cold.

Erin Siegal / Reuters

Last week, Donald Trump was addressing a large crowd in Burlington, Vermont, when he was interrupted by a series of protestors who raised their voices against him. Soon, he asked security to remove the disruptive audience members, asserting his power in a legitimate manner so that he could continue with his remarks.

But that wasn’t enough for the billionaire.

Standing before a crowd of supporters and acting on an impulse, he piled on, ordering security personnel at the event to seize the coats of the protestors in addition to kicking them out. “Get him outta there! Don’t give him his coat,” he said on one occasion. “Keep his coat. Confiscate his coat. You know it’s about 10 degrees below zero outside. No, you can keep his coat. Tell him we’ll send it to him in a couple of weeks.” In the clip below he gives those orders near the beginning and the end.

In the present campaign, voters are deciding whether various candidates can be trusted with the extraordinary power that is vested in the president of the United States.

Who will use that power with wisdom and restraint?

Trump can’t help but abuse the power of presiding over a rally. His supporters believe that he will stand with little guys against elites. Yet there he was amid thousands of fans ordering hired muscle to strip powerless dissenters of their coats. There he was saying they should be turned out into the Vermont winter that way.

He was not content to restore order. He went a step further, using power vindictively, whether to satisfy his own desire or to play to the worst impulses of the crowd.

His behavior was needlessly cruel.

And it was familiar. It shared something with the football player who throws a kidney punch in the dog pile after the opposing receiver is down, and with the police officer who slams the suspect’s head against the doorframe as he puts him in the back seat. It reminded me of the boss who makes the worker who beat him in the March-Madness pool stay late, just to inflict pain that reminds everyone who is in charge. Or the politician who beats a political enemy, then orders her audited.

Trump is a bully. How many of his supporters still haven’t realized that? How many don’t care because they think he’s their bully? If they elect him, they’ll find out the truth. He’d as soon tell hired muscle to take their coats if it served his purposes.