Why Donald Trump Poses an Increasing Risk to Democracy in the US and What We Can Do about It

January 14th, 2019 - by admin

Robert Reich / The Guardian UK – 2019-01-14 11:11:48


Trump Takes Another Move From the Dictator’s Play Book
Robert Reich / The Guardian UK

(January 12, 2019) – “I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want,” Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

The wonderful thing about Trump’s presidency (I never thought I’d begin a sentence this way), is he brings us back to basics. The basic difference between a democracy and a dictatorship comes down to means and ends.

Democracy is about means, not ends. If we all agreed on the ends (such as whether to build a wall along the Mexican border) there’d be no need for democracy.

But of course we don’t agree, which is why the means by which we resolve our differences are so important. Those means include a constitution, a system of government based on the rule of law, and an independent judiciary.

A dictatorship, by contrast, is only about ends. Those ends are the goals of the dictator — at a minimum, preserving and accumulating personal power. To achieve those ends, a dictator will use any means necessary.

Which brings us back to Trump.

The conventional criticism of Trump is that he is unfit to be president because he continuously breaks the norms of how a president should behave.

Trump’s norm-breaking is unsettling, to be sure, but his more fundamental offense is he continuously sacrifices means in order to preserve and accumulate personal power. He thereby violates a US president’s core responsibility to protect American democracy.

A president who shuts down government in order to get his way on a controversial issue, such as building a wall along the border with Mexico, offering to reopen it as a concession when his opponents give in, is not protecting the means of democracy. He is treating the government of the United States as a bargaining chip. He is asserting power by any means possible. This is the method of a dictator.

A president who claims he has an absolute right to order the military to take actions in the US that are the subject of intense political debate, and do so without congressional approval, is not acting as the head of government of a democracy; he is assuming the role of a dictator.

A president who spouts lies during a primetime national television address over what he terms an “undeniable crisis” at the southern US border, which is in fact no crisis at all, is not protecting democracy. He is using whatever means available to him to preserve and build his base of power.

The real international threat to the US is not coming from the southern border. It is coming from a foreign government intent on undermining our democracy by propagating lies, turning Americans against each other, and electing a puppet president.

We do not know yet whether Trump colluded with Russian president Vladimir Putin to win the 2016 election. What we do know so far is that Trump’s aides and campaign manager worked with Putin’s emissaries during the 2016 election, and that Putin sought to swing the election in favor of Trump.

We also know that since he was elected, Trump has done little or nothing to stop Putin from continuing to try to undermine our democracy. To the contrary, Trump has obstructed inquiries into Russian meddling.

The overall pattern is clear to anyone who cares to see it. Trump’s entire presidency to date has sacrificed the means of democracy to the end of preserving his personal power.

He has lied about the results of votes and established a commission to investigate bogus claims of fraudulent voting; attacked judges who have ruled against him, with the goal of stirring up the public against them; encouraged followers to believe that his opponent in the 2016 election should be imprisoned; and condemned as “enemies of the people” journalists who report unfavorably about him, in an effort to fuel public resentment — perhaps even violence — against them.

To argue, as some Trump apologists do, that whatever Trump does is justified because voters put Trump in power, is to claim that voters can decide to elect a dictator.

They cannot. Even if a majority of Americans were to attempt such thing (and, remember, Trump received 3 million fewer votes than his opponent in 2016), the constitution prohibits it.

The choice could not be clearer. Democracy is about means. Dictatorship is about ends. Trump uses any means available to achieve his own ends.

We can preserve our democracy and force Trump out of office. Or we can continue to struggle against someone who strives to thwart democracy for his own benefit.

In the months ahead, that choice will be made, one way or the other.

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good.

MoveOn’s Plan to End the Shutdown
Robert Reich / MoveOn

(January 12, 2019) — It is now Day 22 of Donald Trump’s temper tantrum-induced government shutdown, officially making this the longest shutdown in American history. I’ve never seen anything like this before.

Let’s be very clear: Building a wall on our southern border is a dumb idea that is racist and xenophobic, and Trump’s willingness to hold 800,000 federal workers and additional contractors hostage, or even declare a state of emergency in order to get it built, is downright delusional, and bordering on dictatorial.

Trump’s increasingly outrageous comments over the past few days make it clear that he does not understand the implications of the shutdown or care about its devastating impact on the federal workers and government contractors who have spent three weeks without a paycheck — or the impact it has on their families, communities, and local economies.

Earlier this week, Trump told lawmakers that they should refer to the shutdown as a “strike” instead, as if this were the same as a group of workers rising up for better pay, rather than the deranged whim of a single man that is keeping nearly one million workers from being paid. (1)

And he has continued to threaten to take the extraordinary and terrifying step of declaring a national emergency in order to force the military to build the wall for him without the approval of Congress.

Enough is enough. We must rise up together and demand that Congress act to reopen the government without a dime for Trump’s pointless, racist wall.

Here is what MoveOn has planned to win this fight:
* Commission polling to show vulnerable Republican senators who are up for re-election in 2020 that their constituents don’t want a shutdown, don’t want a wall, but do want their senators to stand up to Trump and reopen the government.

* Flooding the Senate with calls demanding senators vote to reopen the government. Only hours before Trump decided to shut down the government, the Senate voted unanimously to fund the government without building the wall, but now Mitch McConnell refuses to stand up to Trump and put the same bill up for a vote.

MoveOn members have already made thousands of calls to their senators, and MoveOn will continue to drive even more calls to make sure that these elected officials know that there will be consequences unless they take action.

* Supporting Senate Democrats who are blocking all bills until the government is open. Even with Democrats in the minority, they have major power in the Senate to stop McConnell from operating as business as usual by blocking any bill that comes to the floor that is not about reopening the government. It is critical that Democrats remain strong and committed to this strategy, even as Trump continues to shift the blame.

* Producing videos and digital ads detailing the real impacts of the shutdown. Over 800,000 workers are not getting paychecks, TSA agents forced to work without pay are calling in sick, and thousands of low-income workers will never receive back pay for the work they have done during the shutdown. (2)

Highlighting these stories of the real impact of Trump’s shutdown will help to focus the conversation and remind people across the country who is truly to blame for this mess.

* Preparing to launch MoveOn’s Crisis Response Network if Trump declares a state of emergency. If Trump takes this extraordinary step, it may also allow him to enact other brazen anti-democratic policies, which is why hundreds of thousands of MoveOn members are ready to mobilize in protest if Trump seizes extraordinary powers in declaring a state of emergency to build his wall.

It is time to pull out all the stops and do everything we can to end it. Which is why I’m asking:

Trump’s willingness to keep the government shut down for, as he said, “months or even years” shows just how far he is willing to go to get what he wants — and how little regard he has for the American people and the fundamentals of democracy. (3)

This move is another slap in the face of immigrant communities already under attack by Trump’s inhumane, racist policies; the federal workers he shamelessly forced to work without pay for three weeks; and for the will of the American public who last November voted resoundingly against his immigration policies.

The reality is simple: Donald Trump is a liar. There is no national security emergency at the United States-Mexico border, and building a wall will do absolutely nothing except serve as a symbol of Trump’s dangerous nationalism.

In the meantime, there is a humanitarian crisis that Trump and the Republicans are creating: separating families, denying asylum-seekers the legal right to pursue asylum, and even tear-gassing families that are simply looking for a better life. We can and must show respect and dignity to immigrants — and follow existing laws that respect asylum-seekers.

The ongoing government shutdown is an undemocratic power grab from an unhinged man unhappy with the results of the 2018 election.

We know how far Trump is willing to go to get what he wants, and we must do everything in our power to stop him.

1. “Trump told lawmakers he prefers word ‘strike’ to government shutdown, sources say,” CNN, January 5, 2019

2. “Amid shutdown, more TSA agents are calling in sick. Here’s what you need to know,” CNBC, January 5, 2019

3. “Trump Says Shutdown Could Last ‘Months or Even Years,'” The Daily Beast, January 4, 2019