In this administration, there have been many examples of courageous defiance

In this administration, there have been many examples of courageous defiance
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James Schwab, the former San Francisco spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), joined a growing list of former government officials who have acted heroically by defying, in large and small ways, the demands of the Trump administration.

As Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesABC lands first one-on-one TV interview with Garland since confirmation Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder MORE, Walter M. Shaub Jr., and Joel Clement among others have discovered, there is seemingly no limit to what Trump and those in his circle, will demand of government employees.

Lying to the public has apparently become a requirement of office ever since Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerOvernight Health Care: CDC director calls on Michigan to 'close things down' amid surge in cases | Regeneron says antibody therapy prevents COVID-19 infections The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Biden moves vaccine eligibility by almost two weeks Easter Bunny pays surprise visit to White House briefing room MORE and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE’s insisted, against all evidence, that the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was larger than that at Obama’s.


Government service typically is not glamorous, despite rhetoric about draining the swamp, and all jobs require compromises. And people have resigned in protest under previous presidents.

But what we are seeing now — examples of courageous defiance by some (and hunkering down by others) — seems different.

As President George W. Bush seems to recognize and appreciate, history over the long-term is not likely to be kind to the Trump presidency. But in the short-term, it is important to recognize the heroes around us.

Those in the administration who try to ride out the Trump roller coaster while enjoying the various perks of power are not heroes nor are they the sort of public servant that the country needs.

The same can be said for Republican politicians who selectively defend or try to distance themselves from the President while they focus on advancing their agenda.

The question is no longer not why would people resign, as Schwab did, but why would those with a moral compass continue to work for Trump?

As someone who lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area, I of course know countless good people who work for the federal government. At gatherings, a common refrain is that the work they do is sufficiently narrow or technical that they are shielded from the madness at the top.

There is not a single right answer as to whether those in the public sector should stick it out or leave, but government employees who recognize the moral content of work ought to be concerned about the degree to which they have already been compromised.  

At some point — and that point seems to differ from person to person (Gary Cohn, for example, basically quit over tariffs) — people have to choose between their convictions and Trump. Those who choose to leave a job are making a difficult choice, often with significant financial and career consequences. But choosing to stay should also be a difficult choice and arguably one with as significant career consequences long-term.

But it is hard to imagine that “worked for the Trump administration” is going to be a point of pride in the future. If anything prospective future employers should wonder about the sort of compromises such a person made and whether such a person is the right hire.

Those who follow their conscience are heroes, of a sort, and it is on the rest of us to support them as appropriate. There is little space during the Trump administration for those who want to bury their head in the sand.

Even as we acknowledge the humanity and celebrate the choices of those who leave, the label “Hero” with a capital “H” arguably demands more than simply leaving a job. Heroes are everywhere and often involved in fighting the good fight without seeking or being given recognition.

After graduation, one of my classmates, Amber Harding started working for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and fifteen years later she continues to fight for the homeless. Harding is constantly pushing; pushing for more affordable housing, pushing Mayor Muriel Bowser to live up to the promises made during her first campaign, and pushing for residents of D.C. to care more about the needy.

Harding is hardly alone. Though it has long been trendy to bash lawyers, with every new group of law students I teach, I meet people who want to be heroes, who want to do the right thing and who want to make the world a better place. I want that for them as well. And the same is true in every profession. I interact with heroes every day.

Immigrants who work long shifts at fast food restaurants to provide for their family, teachers who love and care for far more kids than I could manage, and mechanics who seem to genuinely care about the wellbeing of the car they are servicing.

The Trump administration, by abandoning both ordinary politics and all limits on common decency, forces all of us to wonder if what we are doing is right and if we are doing enough. It is admirable that James Schwab defended the truth by leaving his position with ICE when asked to participate in misdirection.

Given the level of alleged corruption involving the Trump family businesses, the seemingly racist tone of the President, and the anti-immigrant vitriol, it would be great to imagine a wave of people resigning. These are dark days and it is crucial we recognize the ordinary and extraordinary heroes in our midst who are actively working to better the world.

Ezra Rosser is a law professor at American University Washington College of Law. You can follow him on Twitter @EzraRosser.