Will the Republican Party that made Donald Trump its prospective nominee protect us from Trump when he is president? Even as they call him a “textbook” racist and acknowledge his scant regard for the rule of law, Republican leaders assure voters that the U.S. system of checks and balances will contain their candidate’s authoritarian impulses. Congress and the judicial system will keep Trump under control.
|Senator Joe McCarthy|
History and recent events suggest that is a risky proposition. Inflamed popular passions and overreaching presidents have at times not been checked. Presidents have ignored Supreme Court rulings; and the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and 1918, Jim Crow, the mistreatment of German Americans during World War I and of U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, and the investigations of Sen. Joseph McCarthy all showed how a frightened, angry or simply bigoted majority could deprive individuals of their rights despite the Constitution’s checks and balances. That those rights were eventually restored is no cause for satisfaction: The damage done was permanent.
Nor is it reason for complacency, especially now. Never before has a presidential candidate given more reason to fear that he will run roughshod over democratic institutions and abuse the vast powers of the presidency for personal ends. Not a week goes by without Trump providing fresh evidence that he neither understands nor values our political and legal systems but rather sees them as tools to be manipulated or obstacles to be overcome. He threatens to change libel laws to go after media outlets. He attacks federal judges as unfit on grounds of ethnic background. He promises, if elected, to have his attorney general launch investigations of his political opponents. In the past, Americans did not know as they voted that their presidents would seek to abuse their executive powers. This time, and indeed for the first time ever, they do.Read the rest of this op-ed HERE.
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