Trump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results

Presidents look for a number of qualities when they staff the upper reaches of the executive branch. Ideally they want someone who has subject matter expertise (someone who knows about health issues to be Secretary of Health and Human Services for example). It is not unreasonable for them also to want people who will help advance the agenda of the president. Other characteristics like honesty, skill at public appearances, and experience in government are also desirable.

But no administration has placed as high a value on loyalty as the current one. From tweeting about civil servantswho are perceived to be disloyal, to publicly humiliating those who testified against him in the impeachment hearings, President Trump has made clear that there is one qualification to serving in his administration, unquestioning loyalty to him.

The United States is now experiencing the results of this management approach. It has affected the most significant issues the country is dealing with. There has been a response to a pandemic that has arguably been the worst of any developed democracy. We have a recession that is likely to be deeper and more severe than any economic downturn since the Great Depression. And protests in the streets of American cities have been exacerbated by the actions of the federal government.

Since its earliest days, the administration has been plagued by scandal after scandal after scandal. Many of these scandals have been the result of actions by unqualified presidential appointees.

And in attempting to accomplish its priorities, the Trump administration cannot seem to produce even modest successes. Deregulatory efforts (at least those not passed by Congress) consistently get overturned by the courts. As a result, it will be much easier for a potential Biden administration to quickly reverse many of these policy initiatives.

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