April 18, 2020
The world is being ravaged by a plague. The economy is tanking as people around the world shelter in place. Countries are using extraordinary measures to keep people from suffering medically, emotionally and financially. And then the United States of America devolves into a constitutional crisis.
One feature of the Trump presidency is that he lies constantly. Of course some of his lies could be construed as simple misinformation, ignorance or bluster, but many are simple lies. [For more see Poltifact’s scorecard]. The Washington Post has counted over 16,000 false or misleading claims as president. That’s 22 per day. The net effect of that is that the words he says have no meaning, and anything he says that is offensive, inflammatory or otherwise bad, avoids serious scrutiny through claims of “it’s just the way he is” or “he is constantly exaggerating” or perhaps “that’s not what he meant”.
Over the past week, Donald Trump has initiated three separate and very serious attacks on democracy in the United States. Most people won’t even notice that they are happening. Many won’t care because they are worried about food and shelter, leaving a small minority that do understand. Some will take advantage of these attacks and some will deplore them for the tragedy they are. Unfortunately, the catcalls will almost certainly overwhelm those writing articles about the importance of the constitution. That thoughtful and unemotional response will go missing given all of the noise about the current crisis.
These attacks are very serious.
- Trump threatened to adjourn congress to get nominees approved. This is probably the scariest thing Trump has done this year (it is up there with putting Brett Kavanagh on the supreme court and making Bill Barr the attorney general). In essence he is trying to slowly move the US to a dictatorship. Bloomberg news published an opinion piece highlighting that the whole basis is not true (surprise, surprise). Many others have done the math in similar fashion.
- Trump has clearly stated that he [thinks he] has complete authority. [See 2:20 of the video] Even Fox News, who some widely regard as a Trump marketing arm, published a story highlighting the push back on such a claim. Plenty of others were not so gracious about the president’s attempts to subvert democracy in the United States.
- Trump used Twitter to incite citizens to rise up against their state government. This is serious. I don’t think anyone really needs to become a word smith to understand what Trump meant when he said ‘LIBERATE Michigan’ and Virginia and Minnesota. Inciting insurrection is an offense against the country and eliminates the possibility of holding office and up to 10 years in prison. This from the President!
The last attack had people standing in front of public buildings with automatic weapons and demonstrating for the removal of shelter in place and lock down orders and, in some cases, politicians from office.
To put that into context, there have only been two other major attacks on the constitution that I can recall in all of my life. The first was Watergate, and I was a baby; the second was the Bush/Gore election in 2000. That’s two in 50 years. And three serious attacks last week.
But the stock market was up.
The US constitution was designed specifically to prevent people like Donald Trump from obtaining power in the first place, but more clearly from obtaining absolute power through it’s divisions of power. Like many areas of life, letting little things go can lead to more difficult situations later. Donald Trump’s many and varied weaknesses and transgressions have been allowed to fester. Now with the world at a (perhaps, yet another?) precipice, Trump is taking advantage and trying to take power. He continues to do so under the guise of misinformation.
We know how this kind of populism ends. It has been used dozens if not hundreds of times. It always ends badly, although sometimes not immediately. Most of the so called banana republics that Trump chastises used the same methods to cause an overwhelming populist surge to remove (usually corrupt) leadership, often democratic. Cuba, Iran and Venezuela are modern US bogeymen who went down the same path. But the same approach is being used by Russia in the annexation of Crimea, there are similarities with the destabilization in Somalia and plenty of other nations.
But the stock market was up.
There is little evidence that things end well for the citizens of any nation that closes itself off from the world, is mired in debt and fails to take care of its own people. Political beliefs, religious beliefs, economic models, skin color all become irrelevant when the population is isolated, a slave to debt and lacking basic social equality.
The probability of things ending well for the people of the US and ultimately the US economy are dropping rapidly.