Donald J. Trump and his sycophantic Senate toadies are a clear and present danger to America. Deep in the darkness of his mind the president envisions our country as a dystopian nation in which the people live in fear of his power, and those who oppose him are imprisoned. The outcome of a Trump-centric nation is clearly seen in Belarus, China, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Saudi Arabia and North Korea where political opponents of authoritarian leaders are imprisoned, expelled, executed or assassinated.
Do you think this is too farfetched? Remember the allegory about a frog in a pot full of water. The temperature of the water rises so slowly that the frog doesn’t sense any change, and then when it reaches a boiling point the unwitting frog dies. Some of Trump’s proclamations and actions are so bizarre that reasonable people merely shake their heads and ignore him. Our constitutional principles are being eroded so slowly that many Americans don’t notice it. But the pot we are in is fast reaching a boiling temperature. Consider these actions:
Trump rejects all constitutional checks on his power; orders his staff to ignore lawful subpoenas; fires inspector generals who take action that uphold the law; personally demeans opponents because he does not have the intellectual power to debate them; insights street violence by cheering on right-wing white-nationalists; shatters the intent of the first amendment by attacking the media’s credibility (even laughing with a crowd of rally supporters while telling the story of an MSNBC reporter who was shot while covering a street protest); puts the lives of Americans in danger by substituting his ignorance for the judgement of scientists; worships authoritarian leaders; trashes treaties and long-standing international agreements; threatens political opponents with charges of sedition–––even to the extent of suggesting his predecessor should spend 50 years in prison for treason.
Covets Absolute Power
And now we see a president who covets absolute power glimpsing the clear possibility that he will be defeated in his quest for a second term. Both national and battleground polls show him significantly behind former Vice President Joseph Biden. In the Trump mind this cannot be possible, and it cannot be tolerated. So, he begins an all-out assault on the credibility of American elections. “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if this election is rigged” he told a rally in Wisconsin. “Incredible Trump landslide will be flipped by mail-in votes emerging a week after election day,” he tweeted.
At a White House news conference, a reporter asked the president if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses in November. “We’re going to have see what happens. You know I have been complaining very strongly about ballots, and the ballots are a disaster…Get rid of the ballots and you will have a very peaceful––there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.” He made a similar comment in July in response to a challenge from Chris Wallace to “give a direct answer” to whether or not he would accept the election outcome. Trump said, “I have to see…I’m not going to say yes, I’m not going to say no…”:
One Republican senator took Trump’s words seriously. Mitt Romney tweeted, “Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transfer of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.” Unacceptable, yes…but, Trump has made it thinkable.
In an interview with Politico, Bernie Sanders said clearly what I think: “What we have got to do in the next two months is alert the American people about what that nightmarish scenario might look like in order to prepare them for that possibility and talk about what we do if that happens.”
The Election that Could Break America
In a brilliant piece in the Atlantic, The Election That Could Break America, Barton Gellman begins that conversation. He writes, “A lot of people, including Joe Biden, have misconceived the nature of the threat. They frame it as a concern, unthinkable for presidents past, that Trump might refuse to vacate the oval office if he loses. They generally conclude, as Biden has, that in that event proper authorities ‘will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.’
“The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that uncertainty to hold on to power. Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states.”
Gellman closes with this thought, “Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance.”
A couple of months ago a good friend told me that it was time to quit talking about Trump and start talking about what a post-Trump America could be like. If this were a normal election I would agree. But I believe that Donald J. Trump is a mortal threat to the ideal of America. And, I believe that he is banking on us to merely shrug our shoulders at his consistently outlandish behavior and put our attention elsewhere. I couldn’t look my grandchildren in the eye if I followed my friend’s advice.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.