The March edition of The Atlantic magazine has a must read article for those of us who are less than ecstatic about the current regime in Washington.
In “How to Build an Autocracy” David Frum discusses the destruction of traditional safeguards in a government that has served us well for over two hundred years. He first targets a legislature that abrogates its oversight responsibilities to the point that it becomes subservient to the executive branch. And this was written before we saw the chairman of a House investigative committee go running to the President to report on evidence brought before his committee!
Frum also points out that Presidents have tremendous powers of appointment, removal, and pardon. Ordinarily the President’s own ethics and desire to “promote the common welfare” serve as a check on those powers. But, Frum asks point-blank: “What happens if somebody comes to high office lacking those qualities?” One might add: what if that someone is a person who just sneers at restraints? “I am the President and you are not.”
The Atlantic author also cites subtle and not-so-subtle encouragement of civil unrest to inflame emotional rather than rational reactions to issues and problems. We saw this at work repeatedly in DT’s campaign strategy—thus “ratifying [his] apocalyptic vision” and providing excuses for repression of protests. Paradoxically, we also have a large segment of the electorate that simply doesn’t care. DT and his ilk count on public indifference. Remember when he famously said he could get away with murder in broad daylight and no one would object? Well? Where are the protests about the Russian involvement? About the dismantling of public education? About the rape of the environment? About the gross expenditures for his golfing trips? About . . .
Frum does not dwell on DT’s relationship but with the press, but I would argue that DT’s attempts to weaken “the Fourth Estate” is yet another technique in undermining American democracy. The media, per se, is not the enemy, but it is incumbent on citizens that we remain informed—to seek balance in our sources—to at least TRY to sort out what the truth may be in given issues. Otherwise, we leave ourselves ripe for autocracy.