Sunday, February 05, 2017

How Donald Trump Could Build an Autocracy in the U.S.

David Frum in the Atlantic has a long-form piece describing a frighteningly plausible scenario of how Donald Trump can lead the U.S. into an autocracy.  The TL;DR is that it won't be obvious that it's happening.  It's a splendidly written piece, worth reading all the way through despite its length.  I can't even find an excerpt that does it justice.  Just set aside some time and read it.  I don't assign homework that often.

Also, this cartoon came through on my feed today, noteworthy not just for its content but also for its (historical) context.


coby said...

I like the cartoon and don't really have specific cause to doubt it, but do you know its original source? Or can you say where you got it? I'd like to share it around.


coby said...

I fell for that Trump meme where he was supposedly quoted sayinig he'd run for president as a republican because they are stupid.

coby said...

Never mind, seems to be legit: plus other easily googled sources.

Luke said...

>> That [Trump can pardon negligently] is true, and it points to a deeper truth: The United States may be a nation of laws, but the proper functioning of the law depends upon the competence and integrity of those charged with executing it. A president determined to thwart the law in order to protect himself and those in his circle has many means to do so. ("How to Build an Autocracy")

This is a really important fact that liberals (or "the Left", or "Progressives") seem highly resistant to believing. Chris Hedges puts it this way:

>>     The anemic liberal class continues to assert, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that human freedom and equality can be achieved through the charade of electoral politics and constitutional reform. It refuses to acknowledge the corporate domination of traditional democratic channels for ensuring broad participatory power. Law has become, perhaps, the last idealistic refuge of the liberal class. Liberals, while despairing of legislative bodies and the lack of genuine debate in political campaigns, retain a naive faith in law as an effective vehicle for reform. They retain this faith despite a manipulation of the legal system by corporate power that is as flagrant as the corporate manipulation of electoral politics and legislative deliberation. Laws passed by Congress, for example, deregulated the economy and turned it over to speculators. Laws permitted the pillaging of the U.S. Treasury on behalf of Wall Street. Laws have suspended vital civil liberties including habeas corpus and permit the president to authorize the assassination of U.S. citizens deemed complicit in terror. The Supreme Court, overturning legal precedent, ended the recount in the 2000 Florida presidential election and anointed George W. Bush as president. (Death of the Liberal Class, 8–9)

When I attended the The New Politics of Church/​State Relations conference at Stanford, I asked one of the Stanford law profs whether he thought students believed too much in law. He said no, it's actually the faculty who believe too much in law. I suspect that expert testimony should be treated as a bit more than merely anecdotal.

As it turns out, the day you met my friend the sociologist (I'm being careful to not utter his name), he had found a wealth of research on how jurisprudence actually operates. It's rather different from the stories many people tell. I look forward to exploring how well the empirical evidence matches the understanding of law I gained from reading the Bible and contrasting 'spirit of the law' to 'letter of the law'. (He doesn't like this dichotomy, himself.)

From here, we can move to how character is formed—or not formed. Just what does it take for those who choose to run for elected office to have the requisite "competence and integrity" to rule well? It is important to understand the institutional dependence of character, captured in works such as John M. Doris' Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior. The aforementioned sociologist is very insistent that character is much more social than individual; I think the Bible would concur on this matter as well. However, this means that bad character in Presidential candidates reflects that much more badly on more of society. We... have some repenting to do. Unless we want more of this. I predict scapegoating—insisting that "my" side is righteous and the "Other" is evil—will lead only to bad places. "... / If you take away the yoke from your midst, / the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, / ..."