National Emergency or Armageddon?
Can “we the people” declare a national emergency as our President is threatening to do? Only if we put our bodies out in the streets and/or in the halls of government. Only if our elected representatives use their bully pulpits to turn the tables on the President. We can see our own president as either a National Emergency or Armageddon for our democracy/republic.
Other leaders have found the loopholes in our documents that allow them to use political trickery, “creativity”, semantic license, to expand their powers. Isn’t that the whole point of the trending movie, Vice, which shows how Dick Cheney smiled his oily smile and annexed power; mostly new frontiers of power for a Republican president (Bush) and, incidentally, the Republican Party?
Donald Trump, in the name of whatever he means by “winning”, is finding ways to invest even more power in the office of the Presidency. The powers Trump uses are real, because each time pundits tell us that he can do what he is doing without facing legal repercussions, but they also tell us that he is pushing the envelope in ways that will change presidential power, possibly forever. Previous leaders have used a presidential power to declare a National Emergency sparingly, as in we have had few instances where our leaders actually have used the power to call a National Emergency at all.
In the past this power was used to order the internment of Japanese Americans in WW II (along with the seizure of their property), an instance we are not proud of. Obama called a National Emergency for a flu epidemic, perhaps, in retrospect, an overreaction, but not a power grab. In fact, neither of these instances involved a power grab.
However, now we have a President who has already emptied our agencies of thousands of federal employees by simply not replacing people who leave. In this way he has made government smaller, with little attention paid. He uses up cabinet members like tissues in a bottomless box. If they are not toadies, they cannot stay. It is never good when a leader surrounds him/herself with only “yes” men/women. He is stuffing the courts with young conservative pseudo-judges who will serve for a lifetime. It is never good when a leader stuffs the courts as an offensive play, although it is sometimes necessary when playing defense, as we have seen. We often see this very strategy when a country is becoming more authoritarian.
Trump sidelined Congress by using the party apparatus to insure a Congress that only did his bidding. As soon as we the people placed one house of Congress in the hands of our representatives in order to oppose his policies he shut down the government on the bogus issue of funding the wall. He had had a document on this desk to fund the wall and avoid the shutdown; he refused to sign it, even though he had already signaled that he would. Again he sidelined a house of Congress, this time a house that opposes him, by setting an agenda that distracts mightily from the agenda the Democrats want to pursue.
This shutdown is a “twofer” – bringing the contentious issue of the wall front and center, and hooking into Democratic (and national) compassion for furloughed public employees who might lose everything. It might even be a “three-fer”, because of the chaos of uncollected garbage, closed and unsupervised National Parks, failing national security systems at our points of entry, and since there are no judges available to adjudicate asylum matters at our southern border that perhaps foments more chaos there (hence making a wall seem more necessary).
Furloughing 800,000 federal employees further empties out the government. Now all we have in Washington is Trump, his swampy cabinet, and his supine Senate proving to the upstart Dems who actually still has the power (white men). And of course, we still have Trump, who is playing “king of the mountain” in his usual mobster fashion.
This could be seen as an excellent move in what already seems like a slow-walk authoritarian coup. Trump is not just holding federal workers hostage, he is using dubious policy as a wall to hold back the Dems in the House of Representatives (now full of minorities and women). He may be a crazy old coot, but he is our crazy old coot, and he sometimes seems to be crazy like a fox. This could be less National Emergency and more Armageddon folks. Why do we appear to have so few options?
Photo Credit: From a Google image search – NYT