• A Trump Dictatorship

    When Republican senators put their own interests and those of their party ahead of those of the country and voted to acquit Donald Trump on his impeachment charges, they convinced the President that he was bullet-proof and could not be touched.

    Newly emboldened by his acquittal, Trump has now proceeded to defy one of the basic rules of a constitutional democracy and of a free country. That basic rule is a principle established centuries ago by English patriots who defied the claim that kings had a divine right to rule – and were supported by one of the greatest of English judges, Chief Justice Coke, who proclaimed that no man, “be he ever so mighty”, is above the law.

    Trump, however, post-impeachment; has not bothered wth nice questions as to whether he is above or subject to the law. He says instead “I am the law” – and he has proceeded to act on that claim by interfering in court cases involving his associates so as to acquit them and pardon them for wrongdoing.

    His Republican supporters seem unconcerned at a claim that in most countries would be recognised for what it is – the foundation stone of an embryonic dictatorship. Trump’s claim to be able to make the law, without reference to the legislature or the judiciary, is a first (and major) step towards the exercise of unbridled power – and he has backed that up with a range of further claims and actions that have no place in a proper democracy.

    In case his claim to “be the law” is challenged and rebutted, he has systematically stacked the judiciary (including the Supreme Court) with his own nominees. And he has pursued a number of other steps that are reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany.

    He has used as a political weapon a series of mass rallies at which he rouses his audience to chant slogans aimed at his opponents, and takes the opportunity to attack those who are “different” in colour, ethnicity, origin and political opinion.

    He has pursued a long campaign of denigrating and badmouthing the media , and their role as a bastion of democracy, encouraging his followers to think that they are being lied to, and that only he can be relied upon to “tell it like it is” – all this, presumably, in an attempt to escape and circumvent the scrutiny of a free press.

    He continues to remove from office those public servants who fail to deliver the kind of unquestioning support he demands from them. His aim seems to be a body of public servants whose loyalty is to him personally rather than to the country as a whole or to the constitution.

    He has made no secret of his wish to establish a dynasty – following in the footsteps no doubt of the Kim dynasty in North Korea which he seems greatly to admire – and it would come as no surprise if he were to attempt, if elected for a second term, to change the rules in due course that would limit his ability to seek a third term.

    It might seem fanciful to detect an emerging dictatorship in the world’s greatest democracy, but we should recall that there was a similar reaction to the emergence of Hitler in 1930s Germany – and we should not forget that Hitler came to power by virtue of an election victory.

    It is hard to believe that the great American public could be so ignorant, unconcerned and lacking in self-respect as to allow the same thing to happen in their own country. But the “unthinkable” only happens if we don’t think about it.

    The price of freedom is “eternal vigilance”. Dictatorships do not always come about by virtue of a coup or force of arms. They can emerge much more easily as a result of a series of small steps, small erosions of the safeguards that define our freedom and democracy, and that are not seen for what they are until it is too late.

    All that is now missing in the US is that the forces of law and order are also bent to the President’s will. What odds against the establishment of a Trumpian secret police force?

    Bryan Gould

    1. March 2020