One of the most troubling, and unanticipated, parts of Trump’s speech last night was his call for religious leaders to use their pulpits to dictate political ideology, and he pledged that he would not withhold tax-exempt status for churches that bridge the separation between church and state (presumably those that support him). This sounded a bit authoritarian (if not an act of unashamed pandering to a demographic whose morally hypocritical vote he does not deserve), and suddenly other clues of Trump’s motives for power started sticking out in my mind:
- Trump has pledged throughout his campaign to roll back First Amendment protections of the press. He wants to be able to personally sue journalists who publish negative things about him. Meanwhile, he has ongoing bans on reporters from the Washington and Huffington Posts, Politico, Univision, The Des Moines Register, The Daily Beast, and Buzzfeed. During the primaries he boycotted a debate hosted by Fox News, of all news organizations.
- This week Chris Christie revealed that the Trump campaign is looking for ways to fire apolitical civil servants who have been appointed by President Obama. They can’t legally be fired simply for political expediency, but Trump wants to change the laws that protect against administrative chicanery.
- Trump is not dreaming totalitarian dreams alone, remember. The Republican Party vowed to maintain the Supreme Court’s conservative bias by stonewalling President Obama’s constitutional power to appoint a new judge, even while his pick is an impeccably nonpartisan judge. Now Election 2016 has for Republicans become an ideological battle to replace Justice Scalia with an alleged “constitutionalist,” who might ironically be appointed only because of the GOP’s ongoing blatant disregard for the Constitution.
- Add to these Donald Trump’s judge smearing controversy. He found an ugly, racist excuse to challenge the legitimacy of our judiciary because it wasn’t the decision he wanted. Trump has proven that he has no regard for judicial government.
- And how about the legislative branch? Trump visited Republicans in Congress two weeks ago for a “peacemaking summit” that saw Trump threaten to personally torpedo Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona’s reelection bid this November for not endorsing him. The threat was underwhelming, however, as this is not an election year for the senator, but loyalty has proven suspiciously important for Trump’s fragile ego. Strong-man intimidation aside, Trump does not seem interested in the legislative process. It’s not like he has outlined a modicum of policy with which he plans to guide Congress beyond his campaign’s intrinsically dubious platitudes celebrating nativism. He is a fool’s gold candidate of gaudy nationalism.
- So Trump has proven not to care much for three of our four esteemed branches of government: the press, the judiciary, and the legislature. He is interested, however, in the executive branch of government, and specifically the job as chief executive of the nation. In running for this position, Trump’s nominating convention saw many of his supporting speakers discredit Hillary Clinton as an enemy of America who advocates lawlessness, and repeatedly chant for her literal arrest. Calls for the incarceration of one’s political opposition is never a good sign. Coincidentally, Trump also unveiled new branding of himself this week as the “law and order” candidate. He claims he is the candidate of justice, and asserts that Orwellian peace is possible through strength. And he wants to bring back torture. Yikes.
- He also plans to ramp up military spending even as he calls for the end of American foreign policy by pledging to turn our back on decades-long allies and alliances. Who is he going to use a beefed up military against if he is promoting American isolationism? It is not an elaborate fill-in-the-dots exercise of deduction to realize that he might be planning to occupy America. Is it surprising that he is simultaneously calling for the physical deportation of 11 million people who live here and have families of mixed-citizenship? Or that he wants to aggressively monitor Muslim citizens and is currently trying to Constitutionally rationalize a plan to ban any new Muslims from entering the US? These enterprises are going to presumably require military force, or perhaps an escalation in the militarization of police, neither of which are good for America’s freedom.
Our government is a carefully crafted institution of four branches with valuable checks and balances on all of them. Donald Trump has chafed against every check and balance in our government, and most specifically those that will likely get in his way if he is elected in November.
If Trump’s political motivation is a puzzle within this column, have we not put together all the pieces in the right place? And has the puzzle not revealed a portrait of coming fascism? Virtually every wannabe-dictator warning bell in the book is ringing with thunderous historical reverberation.