The Government That Dare Not Speak Its Name
© 2017, Alex Colvin
On February 23, 2017, Steve Bannon, previously of Brietbart infamy and now President Donald Trump’s Chief Strategist, stood before a crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference: (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, and unabashedly declared the media was the “opposition party,” echoing the sentiments heralded by Trump himself at his recent Melbourne, Florida, rally where he claimed the media was the, “…enemy of the people.” His mob cheered. They sang the national anthem as if in rapture, hands held high as if at some gospel tent revival. Some attendees found it a nauseating way to treat an anthem about liberty.
Bannon’s words are from a man who has been content to lurk in Trump’s shadow in his Rasputian role helping to shape policy oozing out of the White House which is slowly exorcising Americans of their long-cherished civil liberties. Much of these aberrations have come in the form of Executive Orders signed by Trump but believed to be engineered by Bannon.
The most combative of these EOs now in place have fomented the arresting and detaining of “illegal” immigrants. There are also plans to expand detention centers but will not likely be accompanied by funding to expand the meager pool of 300 immigration justices already overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of deportation hearings as required by law. What this means, in effect, is that the round-up of “illegal” immigrants will continue unabated in the short term while detainee’s lengths of stay in them is inevitably elongated. This creates, in effect, a kind of internment policy without calling itself one.
Couple this with a rising tide of state laws being introduced which essentially criminalize free speech and redress of government — two other freedoms established by the first amendment along with press freedoms, and the overarching pattern of Trump’s creeping autocracy becomes clear. And while, said laws may themselves be test balloons launched from statehouses which will undoubtedly go down in flames in federal courts, they are but part of a larger anti-civil liberties scheme which is metastasizing in the Republican party with the assent of Trump.
As I have written before on this platform, in 20th century history, only one form of government was quick to assassinate civil liberties almost immediately upon coming to power: authoritarianism. It goes by many names: tyranny, autocracy, despotism, dictatorship. Its form is synonymous with its most infamous adherents: Mussolini, Hitler, Castro, Lenin and Stalin, and, more recently, Putin, and Kim Jong-un. They are inescapably linked with abolishing civil liberties when they came to power. These leader’s names are forever engraved into the pediment of the same dark Parthenon of men who treated the fourth estate as a threat and dissidents as enemies of the state. Their record of abuses, crack-downs, and inhumanity against their own people are legion. Trump is slowly and inexorably following this same pattern.
Contrary to what Trump may perceive about our nation and its executive branch, our democracy is neither a business nor is the Oval Office a springboard to absolute rule. It citizens are neither employees expected to unquestionably obey the dictates of some detached CEO, nor are they the scraping peasants expecting to demonstrate abject veneration at the mere sight of their liege no matter the abuses he may heap upon them. They are free-born men and women expected to confront tyranny whenever it confronts them. Liberty is in their DNA. They will not let loose of it lightly.
Signs of this are everywhere from the marches and protests taking place daily, to passionate attendees at town hall meetings, redressing and denouncing their public servants — many of whom have fled these meetings or refused to hold them at all for fear of being confronted by their own disapproving constituents. This is democracy in action; this is what it means to participate in a government which derives its power by consent of the governed. When the people do not consent; when their elected officials betray them, the people make their disapproval known, often loudly. Make no mistake; this uprising is neither Democratic nor Republican, as the mixture of both at town hall meetings make clear — no matter how desperately some may cast these protests as commercial products. It is entirely American.
Trump may well be accustomed to surrounding himself with sycophants and yes men who will kowtow to his every wish, however, he will not find the citizenry, nor the 4th estate, nearly so compliant.
We are not the United States, Inc., and Trump is not it’s Chairman. What Trump supporters may find refreshingly “honest” about Trump, is really just a reflection of their having fallen under the spell of his “charismatic authority,” a feature most sociologists know is part of the “cult of personality” autocrats since Mussolini have used use to mesmerize their followers into unflinching loyalty through media manipulation and propaganda. Alas, federal court jurists are not so easily hypnotized and have already found and will continue to find his edicts illegal. Being a nation ruled by laws (rather than by fiats,) with three branches designed to check one another against untrammeled power, this is exactly as it should be.
Likewise, various government agencies have found Trump’s disregard for longstanding policy which help reinforce laws and order, disturbing. His office’s recent attempt to engage the FBI in a cover-up scheme as co-conspirators in an assault on the media, was wholly and publicly rejected by them.
Meanwhile, the rise in unnamed sources with deep insider knowledge now in routine contact with the media from almost every federal branch of government speaks to a mutiny afoot by civil servants not content to be the President’s water bearers on his listing Ship of State. Many departments have likewise seen widespread resignations from top executive levels, signaling their unwillingness to be party to a President who demands loyalty to him above their own sworn duty. Defying Trump has, thus, for them, become a patriotic act of fealty to cause and country.
Bannon may have thrown down the gauntlet by echoing his master’s voice that the media is the “enemy” of the people, but he will find in them, as with the people themselves, a formidable foe to whom he has unwittingly issued a clarion call to stand stalwart against Trump’s creeping autocracy and to defend democracy against her adversaries. Especially when that adversary bears the Presidential seal.