And they say no good deed goes unpunished. In what can only be described as a deliberate act of spiteful intimidation, the Trump White House, after being forced to suspend its campaign to gather voter data from all fifty states due to pending lawsuits, published the private information of people who wrote in to express their concerns over the threat to their privacy.
Fortunately, it seems that none of the main-stream press is publishing the contact information of these people, but that’s not the point. Once more, this Administration has shown the lengths it will go to bully its opponents. Throughout the campaign and even after the inauguration, reporters who wrote pieces that were critical of Trump, his family and cabinet members, were the subjects of harassment and, in some instances, outright threats of violence. Trump, himself, has openly boasted that he is looking into the possibility of changing the libel laws of the country so he can sue news publications that write unflattering things about him.
And now he is targeting average people, whose only crime is that they exercised their rights as American citizens to petition their elected leaders. What’s next? Forcing clergy to swear an oath of allegiance to his Lord Farquaad? And for those of you who might feel uncomfortable with yet another Nazi analogy, where have you been the last six months? What more evidence do you need to realize that what we are witnessing here isn’t just historic, it’s frighteningly tragic?
Donald Trump isn’t merely attempting to put his stamp on this country; he’s attempting to permanently alter the very fabric of it. And he has not been shy about his objectives. If you think this is only about healthcare reform or taxes or regulations or nativism, then you’re missing the bigger picture here. Healthcare laws can be rewritten, taxes and regulations reimposed, and travel bans withdrawn. But when a democracy is wounded or destroyed, it is not so easy to repair or rebuild. Just ask the ancient Greeks about that.
It is the overwhelming consensus of American scholars that the framework the Founders put in place in the late eighteenth century can withstand any challenge, even from someone like Trump. I am not nearly as certain. Yes, it is true that our Constitution has far more safeguards in it than the one that failed Germany in 1932, but if history has taught us anything, it is that nothing is etched in stone or is permanent. Unsinkable ships sink, corrupt governments fall, and indifferent and complacent populations are often lulled to their collective dooms.
We should not be so arrogant as to believe that the United States will be spared the same fate that has befallen other, lesser, democracies. If the old business axiom that an organization is only as strong as its weakest link is applicable to governments then we are truly staring at the precipice of history and we have never been as close as we now find ourselves to falling over into that ghastly abyss.
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