Friday, May 25, 2018

Republicans Are Abetting a Demagogue - Or Something Worse

Other than a few email exchanges, I do not know Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson - a former George W. Bush White House official - but we do share some views on (i) the harm being done to Christianity by evangelical Christians/Christodascists, and (ii) the harm - almost treason, in my view - being done by Donald Trump's enablers and apologists in the Republican Party (like me, I suspect Gerson is now a former Republican).  In a column in the Washington Post, Gerson takes to task the Republicans - an certain media outlets (think Fox News) - who are aiding in the agenda of a dangerous demagogue at best and, at worse, potential autocrat.  All patriotic Americans should be alarmed and pressure Republicans in their districts to put the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law above protecting Trump.  Here are column excerpts:
Much about the future of American politics — and the historical judgment that will be visited on those associated with it — depends on the answer to one question: Is President Trump an instinctual demagogue or an instinctual authoritarian?
On most days, the evidence favors the former interpretation. Trump often acts like a desperate, self-interested politician, convinced that his enemies fight dirty and determined to out-slime them. So he pursues a strategy of character assassination against the special counsel . . .
Then there are other days — and more and more of them — that justify the latter interpretation. Rather than a politician trying to muddy the waters, Trump seems more like a strongman probing the limits of democracy. He seems less like Clinton and more like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeking to dismantle institutional checks on his authority. 
The current flashpoint is the FBI probe of Russian influence on the Trump campaign — an investigation that has made use of an informant in pursuit of information from suspicious Trump associates. Trump has transformed this person into a “spy” who was “implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign,” constituting one of the “biggest political scandals in history.” This is accurate, except there was no spy, who was not implanted in the Trump campaign, in the course of an entirely legitimate investigation. And Trump’s charge of political motivation is absurd on its face . . .
But [Trump's] the president’s evident goal has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with power. Since the early days of his administration, Trump has believed that federal law enforcement should be under his personal control. He has sought loyalty oaths and tried to make FBI investigations stop and start. Now he has seized on a conspiracy theory to undermine public confidence in the FBI. And the future of that institution now hangs by the thread of a few officials committed to the rule of law and the independence of law enforcement.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), which has become a laughably partisan alibi factory for [Trump] the president. Or the Republican Party, which has become a pathetic propaganda tool for a leader who reviles his own party. For Trump, this is what loyalty looks like: subservience. Putting federal law enforcement under his personal, political control would be a danger to the constitutional order.
There is an authoritarian playbook, used (with some variations) in Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela and Russia. Dismantle checks on executive power. Control the criminal-justice system. Scapegoat minority groups. Co-opt mainstream parties. Discredit the independent media. Call for opponents to be jailed. Question the legitimacy of elections. Claim to be the embodied soul of the people.
Trump has praised and congratulated leaders who have done all these things . . . . And he has attempted some parts of the authoritarian playbook himself, particularly in his systematic attacks on law enforcement and the media, and his self-conception as the voice for “real Americans.”
If his ambitions are autocratic, the cowardice of elected Republicans is indefensible and near to unforgivable. Trump’s enablers in politics and the media are reducing the political cost of undemocratic rhetoric and behavior. They are hurting the country in sad and lasting ways. And it has become urgent to wake their sleeping courage.

Sadly, I believe Gerson over estimates the "courage" and moral decency of today's Republicans. I hope that I am wrong, but suspect that today's GOP will continue to aid and abet in the destruction of America's democracy and constitutional government. 

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