4 Ways the Trump Administration Is Flirting With Dictatorship
Donald Trump has not been in office for a full month yet, and there is already a lot of concern over the direction his administration is headed in. Putting the specific policy choices aside, his general leadership style is a cause for concern, as he seems to be approaching the role of president in the way that a dictator would.
At the moment, there are checks and balances in place to prevent a dictator from hijacking the U.S. government. However, with a Republican majority in Congress, these available checks and balances might be ignored in the name of partisanship. It’s important to call attention to the examples of President Trump flirting with dictatorship so that Congress is compelled to act when he steps over the line:
1. There Will Be No Questioning of Authority
Over the weekend, Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s advisers, appeared on Face the Nation to defend the president’s executive order. Rather than justifying it as good policy, though, his defense was essentially that the president cannot be stopped and no one should be questioning his decisions.
“Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” said Miller.
It’s that “will not be questioned” part that’s most alarming. That’s not how our government works. The commander-in-chief is not considered infallible or untouchable – people have the right to challenge his decisions.
2. Accusing People Who Protect the Constitution of Betraying the Government
When Sally Yates, acting U.S. attorney general, instructed her department not to exert energy trying to defend Donald Trump’s executive order because she believed it to be unconstitutional, Trump’s team promptly fired her, simultaneously releasing a press release that read: “The acting Attorney General Sally Yates has betrayed the Department of Justice.”
Betrayal is a remarkably harsh accusation, and completely unwarranted in this scenario. Yates was merely upholding the oath she took to protect the constitution – she has a clear responsibility to that document ahead of the president. If anything, Trump is betraying his own government by continuing to push for his unconstitutional order.
3. Insisting That The People “Love” Donald Trump
Dictators in other countries frequently declare themselves to have won the public vote by over 90 percent, despite the political climate making it abundantly clear that the population does not support its leader by anywhere close to that rate.
Trump might not have rigged the election, yet he’s already gone above and beyond to tell the world that the American people adore him. In addition to insisting that massive voter fraud was the reason he lost the popular vote (without providing any evidence, mind you), he and his staff blatantly lied about something as petty as the size of his inauguration crowd to make it seem as though he has more support.
As for his record-low approval numbers, Trump has another response: “Any negative polls are fake news.” You got that? Literally any report that indicates anything but complete admiration for the president is obviously fabricated.
4. Attacks on the Press
Speaking of “fake news,” that’s a repeated refrain for the Trump camp at this point. Trump has made it a point starting during his campaign to convince people that the media cannot be trusted, and to trust him instead. U.S. Representative Lamar Smith backed this nonsense up by saying, “Better to get your news directly from the president.”
While not all news media outlets are created equally, most hold themselves to high journalistic standards and do not make it a practice of publishing lies. Trump and his Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s antagonistic attitudes toward the media are wholly inappropriate and irresponsible. As is Steve Bannon’s request for the media to “keep its mouth shut” and his insistence that the media is “the opposition party” to the administration.
A robust and free press is critical to a functional democracy. We need journalists to keep politicians accountable. In dictatorships, leaders effectively silence the press, or in some cases take it over to report news the way they want it reported. Allowing Trump to make similar moves leaves us in jeopardy.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore