Monday, October 26, 2020

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What did Donald Trump do today?

He lost a Republican appointee over his attempt to demand loyalty from civil servants.

Ronald Sanders is a Republican human resources expert appointed by Trump to the Federal Salary Council. That body makes recommendations about federal pay rates and other issues related to jobs in the civil service. He resigned today over an executive order signed by Trump last week that would, in effect, ban many government workers from joining unions, and permit a president to fire them for no reason. 

Sanders wrote in his letter that he resigned

with great regret, because while I am proud of the progress the Salary Council has made during my tenure, much work remains to be done. However, after seeing Executive Order 13957 issued by the President on October 21, 2020—which creates a new ‘excepted service’ for certain categories of career Federal employees—I have concluded that as a matter of conscience, I can no longer serve him or his Administration. 

There is some irony in this. On its surface, the President’s Executive Order purports to serve a legitimate and laudable purpose…that is, to hold career Federal employees ‘more accountable’ for their performance. That is something that I have spent most of my professional life—almost four decades in Federal service (over 20 as a member of the Senior Executive Service)—trying to do. However, it is clear that its stated purpose notwithstanding, the Executive Order is nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process. 

I simply cannot be part of an Administration that seeks to do so…to replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance. Career Federal employees are legally and duty- bound to be nonpartisan; they take an oath to preserve and protect our Constitution and the rule of law…not to be loyal to a particular President or Administration. I took that same oath, and despite being a life-long Republican (I was even named after Ronald Reagan), I would like to think that I lived up to it, even as I served three Democratic and three Republican Presidents. Yet the President’s Executive Order seeks to make loyalty to him the litmus test for many thousands of career civil servants, and that is something I cannot be part of. 

Trump's expectation of personal loyalty to him—not the office he holds or the Constitution he is sworn to obey—has been at the root of many of the scandals in his presidency. Most notably, his demand that former FBI Director James Comey swear loyalty to him led quickly to Comey's firing, and the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the links between Russia and the Trump campaign that Trump was trying to push Comey away from.

Why should I care about this?

  • Presidents serve the American people, not the other way around.
  • Government workers who follow the law and perform their duties without partisanship should be protected, not attacked.
  • Demanding personal loyalty is what mob bosses and cult leaders do, not presidents.