Saturday, November 24, 2018

The president who would be king

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News  November 27-28,2018

If there was one reason  the Mayflower was the first of many similar  boatloads full of settlers who sailed across the Atlantic, it  was to escape the tyranny of a government and especially the English King. President Trump has never understood why he cannot rule by decree and executive orders like the  kings and dictators he so admires  and why the judiciary, Congress and law enforcement cannot be put to use  to advance and protect his power and agenda. He tweeted and verbalized an assertion last week that “the judiciary is the greatest threat to our country”, insinuating his edicts were necessary to protect the US from threats to national security.
 He has attacked one  of the key foundations of  American democracy, an independent judiciary.  After a record attempt by the Republican controlled Senate to fast track,  to change the rules so fewer votes were needed to confirm  judges’ appointments,  and to pack the courts with conservative think tank recommended nominees,  including two vacancies on the Supreme Court, it was just not enough for him.  His view of the courts appears to be  all judges should be loyal to him and his  particular  view of executive authority.  That  is the ultimate expression of his desire to make this country ruled by him, not by the rule of law. The threat of an independent judiciary is  not a threat to the country. It is a threat to the power of the wannabe king himself.
Trump has seen some of his executive orders struck down by a judiciary that is sworn  to protect the Constitution. Particularly obnoxious to him is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The infamous Muslim ban was rejected by that court on the basis that it was discriminatory against practitioners of a religion.  After some revisions, it was retitled and changed to ban and permit enhanced extreme vetting of   those who came from specific countries that  may harbor terrorists.  Thrown into the list were a few non Muslim countries. It was a sleight of hand that finally enabled the executive order  to be approved by the Supreme Court on a 5 to 4 decision in June, 2018.
  Trump’s campaign  in the 2018 midterms centered around  hyping  fear and loathing of immigrants of color. To cater to  his nationalist  core followers, he devised a  strategy to  stop“caravans” of migrants seeking asylum in the US . The caravan travellers, equal to  the same number of students of two large high schools , were  comprised of mostly women  and children migrants he called “thugs” and disease ridden. The fear of these migrants was raised to near hysteria by his favored media outlets just before the midterm elections.  US military intelligence had reported the caravans did not  threaten national security, but nonetheless Trump  rushed more US troops to the border than we have in Afghanistan. A week before the midterms he announced a plan for an executive order that would rewrite the 14th Amendment to end birthright citizenship. That has not yet been  court tested.  He followed that strategy  up with an  executive order forbidding those who reached US soil illegally  to qualify for asylum only if they got in line and went through a legal checkpoint. The U.S. Judge  in the Ninth  Circuit ruled November 19 that federal law clearly states that migrants can seek asylum anywhere on U.S. soil  and … “he  (Trump) may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden” . Trump called foul and said  that Judge was an Obama appointee. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts responded in defense of an independent judiciary: "What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

An independent judiciary is fundamental to a democracy and to the Constitution's ability to keep abuse of power to protect us from a one person rule..This posting is a focus on one issue, but the issue is one of the three checks and balances pillars written into the Constitution to restrict the power of the federal government...and especially the executive branch and the legislative branch from abusing their powers. . Therefore it is fundamental to democracy. When wannabe tyrants want to grab total control of the reins of government, they wreck an independent judiciary. The most recent example of that is in Turkey where voters approved his consolidation of three branches of government into one and permitted him to appoint all judges without any constraints. What is disturbing is that it was done with their people's permission, which shows how fragile democracy is. It is an idea but is only as good as the people who support it. From Hitler to Putin to Erdogan, all used fear and hatred of ethnic groups (Jews) (terrorists) , or a government and economy in chaos (Putin) . With control of all the levers of government in one hand, any opposition cannot gather enough strength to cause a reversion to democracy peacefully without violence, putsch, war, or revolution.

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