There is a question we no longer need to ask. You know what it is. It’s that question we asked Germans for decades after WWII. How did Germany allow themselves to succumb to Adolf Hitler?
We don’t need to ask any longer because we are seeing how it happened, as it happens right here. In America. In the 21st century. Trump is taking America down that same road, and all we do is watch.
Trump has a rabid core of supporters formed of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and fake ‘Christians’ who call themselves evangelicals. He has the support of a Republican party that has lost all sense of either ethics or morality. They are dismantling the core values of the Constitution. They have already made America a laughing stock on the world stage. Now Trump and his National Socialists are taking America from laughing stock to world terror.
And all we do is watch. Because, you see, we depend on our democratic underpinnings to save the day. First the mid-terms, then the ouster of Trump in 2020. Hopefully.
Just like all those Germans in the 1930’s who were sure reason would triumph before Hitler and his Nazis took over completely. Oh, and the hopeful ones were in the majority, too. Because, you see, their democracy had two fatal flaws. It was too democratic. It really had no built-in safeguards against a takeover by a charismatic psychopath. And there were insufficient restraints on the power of a single man.
Our own forefathers made exactly the same mistakes. There are no provisions in our Constitution to keep an immoral tyrant from seeking control. And there are roadblocks sufficient to stop a determined Hitler persona from doing whatever he (or she) wants, once in office? The Congress can serve that purpose only if the President’s own party doesn’t also control both houses. The Supreme Court holds no enforcement powers. The nation’s top law enforcement officials serve at the pleasure of the President and his party. The emoluments clause has as much real substance as a Marvel comic book hero. There is no Superman.
IF the United States does manage to survive Donald Trump, these failings need to corrected by Congressional action up to and including Constitutional amendment. It needs to be done with a sense of immediacy. Yes, I have suggestions. They may need to be refined, of course.
1. Psychiatric testing for all Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidate. This can be done by a panel made up of an equal number of psychiatrists from each party. They should also all be teaching level psychiatrists at respected Universities and medical schools, not just anybody with a shingle.
2. No party shall be allowed to control both houses of Congress. The easy fix is for the Supreme Court to allot ‘extra’ votes to the minority party in one of the houses. This is not unfair. Having a single group viewpoint in charge of both houses of Congress is unfair, and dangerous.
3. Abolish the Electoral College.
4. Give the Supreme Court enforcement powers.
5 Reduce the power of the President to make war. He/she should not be able to initiate military action alone except as a direct act of defense/retaliation against a specifically identified hostile force/country in response to a clear act of hostility against America itself. This must be limited to defensive action not to include American forces invading foreign nations. Anything other than this must be authorized by Congress.
6. Once justice department officials have been appointed, the President must not be able to fire them without the concurrence of both houses of Congress.
7. The emoluments clause must be re-written and given teeth. A majority of either house of Congress should be able to instigate the opening of an evaluation. The President’s cabinet, since they have been appointed by the President, can have no part in the process, other than opening an evaluation process by simple majority.
8. No individual who has ever lobbied for industry can be placed in charge of a government agency.
9. The Vice-President cannot serve as the tie breaker in a tied Senate vote. A tied vote must send the questionable legislation to a select committee made up of an equal number of Senators from each party to reach an equitable solution.
10. The President must not have the ability to single-handedly push the nuclear button. He/she must have the concurrence of the Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs. To this end, That individual’s office must be located in the White House instead of the Pentagon.
11. Congress must take immediate action on legislation which spells out clearly that the government shall have no connection whatsoever to any religion or religious body or group.
12. Citizens United must be revisited and overturned. Congress. must take corporate and lobbyist donations completely out of American elections.
13. Congress must review every area of Presidential executive authority and determine legislation to limit it.
I submit that the Democratic party’s biggest problem is the same one Strother Martin had, a failure to communicate. Hillary Clinton was one of the most qualified individuals for the Presidency in recent history. She was not guilty of any of the lying claims the Republicans and Donald Trump threw at her. She was also without a doubt the worst Dem candidate in the 20th and 21st centuries when it came to communicating effectively with the average American. Or just about anybody with less than a college degree.
It’s hard to fathom why people like my own family, whom I’v always thought of as smart, would continue to vote Republican, when it is so obvious to me that Democrats represent everything the Trump voters say they want, while at the same time voting for a party that has been depriving them of those same things, and is now doing its damndest to literally cut the floor out from under them.
Hillary refused to fight in the trenches with Trump. She ‘stayed above it all.’ She refused to refute the lies told about her directly and show evidence. You see, the law may say that we are innocent until proven guilty, but the election wasn’t a courtroom, and the average person where I come from believes that if someone accuses you and you don’t refute it, then you must be guilty of it. It’s the John Wayne syndrome. If somebody takes a punch at you, you’d better punch them back, or you’re a coward, or guilty, or both.
The whole election might have gone differently if She had responded to each lie the Republicans tossed out by saying something like, “You lying dog (or son of a bitch), that’s a lie, and everything you’ve said for the last month is a lie, and here’s the proof,” then laid it out, point by point.
But Hillary usually lost most of the average American right, two sentences into a conversation. Because she always gave the impression she was talking down to them. And sometimes I had to listen very closely to make sure that I, with my multiple degrees, understood her.
I moved from being a right leaning middle of the road independent, to a full fledged liberal Democrat, because of what I saw the Republican party doing to Americans beginning with Reagan. What Reagan and the Bushes have done to this country makes Richard Nixon look like a saint. Now Trump, a lying, stealing, ignorant and mentally unstable con man is their hero. So why does the average American Republican continue to vote for the very people who are destroying them?
Because the McConnells and the Ryans and yes, the Trumps, KNOW HOW TO TALK TO THEM IN A PLAIN, NON-UPPITY FASHION. And they use that awareness to sell them lie after lie after lie, beginning with the trickle down economy garbage and extending through the idiotic “The poor and the downtrodden are stealing from you and the Bible says so” blasphemy. And on that last part, trust me, when you’re talking to middle and southern American, you had damn well better address that latter issue when it’s thrown at you, or you’re dead before you leave the house.
The Republican party has built an entire system of campaign rhetoric based on lying blatantly, calling names, making false accusations, and all the while smooth talking huge sections of the country into liking it, by pretending to be one of them. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are the best examples America has to offer in the 21st century, of classic Shakespearean villains.
If the Democrats, and the left, are going to break the mesmerizing hold these people hold on the “average American,” they are going to have to learn to communicate. To say it like it is in plain no nonsense terms.
Plain talk. In the trenches. There is no such thing as staying above it all. When punched, punch back harder, or you lose credibility. A cow is a cow, not a bovine. When Republicans tell their lies about Social Security being broke, roll up your sleeves and point right at the liar and tell them, on camera, “You’re lying to the American people.” When they bullshit America, shake your head and say, “I don’t believe you’re saying something so stupid. Do you think Americans are stupid enough to buy that line of bull?” TALK PLAIN AND GET ‘ER DONE, PILGRIM!
Oh, and would someone please tell Hillary Clinton that when Trump stalked the stage behind her, glaring at her while she was talking, she should have IMMEDIATELY walked back, right up to him and told him, on mic, “I’m right here if you want to look at me, you SOB. Don’t do it to my back, you sniveling coward.”
Democrats have to learn how to communicate on a grass roots basis. This high falutin’ intellectual superiority crap is destroying them. And it’s destroying America.
I finally figured out what Ben Franklin tried to tell us, and it’s more scary now than at any time I can remember. At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Franklin was queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation. In the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention, a lady asked Franklin, “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy.” Franklin replied, “A republic . . . if you can keep it.” I have used that quote numerous times, during the 2016 election and since. But the full import, the dispiriting and frightening truth behind Franklin’s words, didn’t become fully clear to me until today.
I was napping on the sofa, and struggled to consciousness through the hard to escape fog of a particularly realistic dream. You know, one of those that doesn’t want to let you go. It was a dream about a house of illusions, in which my companion and I pursued an illusory character through a series of rooms, each room a scene that presented a peril or a dilemma before the laughing villainous again revealed herself, taunting us and leading us on to the next scenario.
None of the scenes in that house of illusions was especially horrific. But when we exited through the final door, without ever catching up with our prey, we weren’t sure it was really over. For several moments, we looked around warily for another door, waiting for the minions of this particular scene to descend upon us. Such was the totality of the effect. At the end, you see, we weren’t sure the adventure was over, so firmly convinced we were that nothing was as it seemed.
My subconscious mind must have been quietly connecting synapses while I poured a cup of coffee. By the time I sat down at the computer, thinking to do some writing, the reality of Dr. Franklin’s statement overcame me. When we think of that comment we usually and appropriately connect it to the Constitution itself. But the subtle dangers inherent in our Constitution go all the way back to a phrase in the Declaration of Independence, the fundamental, foundational document at the root of America’s existence. Franklin said, on that final day of deliberations, “We have given you a republic, if you can keep it.” The second paragraph of the Declaration begins with “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
That statement is at the core of the Constitution. It means everybody, both good and bad, honorable and dishonorable, loving and bigoted, truthful and non-truthful. It grants equal voice and rights to those who embrace the Constitution, and the Republic, and the freedoms they represent for all Americans, as well as those who would manipulate the former and disassemble the latter for their own purposes.
Ben Franklin’s warning had nothing to do with threats to America from without. It warned us about the Republic’s vulnerability to attacks from within. He was telling us that our Constitution didn’t include the word ‘forever.’ It still doesn’t. Its existence is always vulnerable, subject to attack, due to its most fundamental principal. All men are created equal. The freedom promised to everyone by one of the most forward thinking documents of governance in the history of the world, is in constant peril, because in order to guarantee the freedom of all, it could not exclude any, including those who would commandeer that freedom for themselves and their followers.
The Bill of Rights reaffirmed that guarantee of freedom for all, free speech for all, the right to assemble and be heard and run for office and seek to control the government, for all. Bigots, have your go. White (or any other color) nationalists, take your shot. Religious extremists of any ilk, go for the gold ring. Control of this country is yours for the taking, if you can manage it.
“We gave you a republic, if you can keep it.” The subtle hidden message within that statement warns us that the scoundrels and thieves, tyrants and haters of others, religious extremists and greed mongers also have the right to take it away from us. Franklin warned us that they will, on the day that the rest of us, those of us who truly believe all men, and women, are created equal, give up; the day that those of us who believe ‘love your neighbor’ means everyone, not just the ones who are the same color as me, or have the same sexuality as me, or the same religion as me, are no longer the majority; the day those of us who believe that America is a nation of people, not corporations, lose the will to stand against those who would usurp our Constitution for their own personal agendas. Because the evil among us is always looking and hoping for the opportunity.
“We gave you a republic, if you can keep it.” Benjamin Franklin was warning us that in order to guarantee the rights of all, our forefathers had to take a terrible risk that the very freedoms they guaranteed to everyone might someday be relinquished, to those who were loud enough, and determined enough, and ruthless enough. He was warning us that our Republic would serve and stand for everyone only as long as we remained determined it would do so. The enemy is not out there, it is within us. And today it is stronger and more determined than I have seen within my lifetime, to take our country for all the people, away from everyone in favor of their chosen few.
May 14, 2017, 6:45pm. Just as nothing was as it seemed in my little dream, I’ve come to realize there was much more than there seemed to be in Ben Franklin’s statement. The Constitution we so treasure and the world admires, in guaranteeing the rights of all, also guarantees the right of those who would destroy it, to do so. We have to ask ourselves, are we strong enough, determined enough, to keep our Republic for all the people? ###
*Miy response to all of those well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) people telling me not to ‘overreact.’ Just relax, ‘they’ say, and it will be okay. No. It won’t. Not without a fight.
Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?” To which he replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” In that reply is a warning, that we must be ever vigilant and prepared to fight to keep the Republic our Founding Fathers crafted.
Don’t tell me to relax. Don’t tell me I’m overreacting. Don’t tell me it will be okay.
No reason for alarm? The nature of Donald Trump has been exhibited consistently throughout his career, displayed by his own words and actions. The word sociopath has been applied to him not just by myself, but by observers including psychologists, based on his behavior and what comes out of his mouth.
No reason for alarm? He wonders why we do not use nuclear weapons. He does not believe in global warming, the perils of our streams and rivers and animal life, the dangers to the environment, and selected as a running mate a man who is a creationist and believes homosexuality can be ‘cured,’ a man who actually believes in forcing ‘therapy’ upon the LGBT community.
No reason for alarm? Donald nurtured and received the support of the kkk, white supremacists, a criminal foreign national with his own agenda, Julian Assange, who helped Trump’s campaign with very selective, stolen and doctored private emails.
No reason for alarm? Donald Trump asked for and benefited from the assistance of one foreign nation, Russia, whose leader he admires, and is celebrated by one of the most repressive regimes on earth, North Korea. He is celebrated by Syria’s regime and by ISIS.
No reason for alarm? Trump has the support of a vindictive religious extremism and reaches out to it.
No reason for alarm? Germany was also a democracy before the citizenry invited Adolf Hitler to take over. The German government had checks and balances, though they weren’t as strong as those in the United States. The German people relinquished their checks and balances little by little, until Hitler had enough power to cancel the rest of them.
No reason for alarm? Religious extremism and white supremacy now control our Presidency, as of January, 2017.
No reason for alarm? That same religious extremism and white supremacy also controls both houses of our Congress, and has cowed the moderates within the once Republican party. There is no effective voice of reason existing within their party.
No reason for alarm? This religiously extreme white nationalist supremacy group now has it within their reach to also control the Supreme Court.
No reason for alarm?
Checks and balances. The Executive, strike one.
Checks and balances. The Legislative. Strike two.
Checks and balances, The Supreme Court. Strike three and out.
No reason for alarm? If you are really trying to tell those of us who study history, those of us who know that this Republic exists for everyone or it exists for no one, to sit back and relax and it will be all right, you are either one of the people behind the curtain, or delusional, or simply in a state of extreme hope because you are afraid to face the possibility of the Republic collapsing within itself.
No reason for alarm?
“Well Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
In that reply is a warning, that we must be ever vigilant and prepared to fight to keep the Republic our Founding Fathers crafted. I choose to believe there is every reason for alarm. I choose to keep that Republic. I choose to fight.
No reason for alarm? You might want consider choosing to wake up.