“We’re rushing toward the breaking point” ~ E.J. Dionne

Dionne in 2008

Here are just a few of the articles I’ve read in the last 24 hours about the threats to our democratic government which is slowly eroding and descending toward totalitarianism.

In “We’re rushing toward the breaking point” the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, one of the most honest and trusted journalists in Washington, points to a problem with media coverage of Trump,

There has been an inclination over the past year in both politics and journalism to separate Trump’s tweets and other outbursts from the realities of governing. … But we are past the time when we can believe any of this. Trump is, without question, doing enormous damage to the United States’ standing in the world, and his strategy for political survival is rooted in a willingness to destroy our institutions. … we must face the fact that Trump is accelerating us toward the breaking point.

Dionne’s main point is that the actions Trump is taking to hold on to power at any cost are just as threatening to democratic government as is his general unfitness for the position he holds, his tweets, his mania, his childishness, etc. We can hope that special counsel Robert S. Mueller saves us,

Yet doing so means continuing to absorb Trump’s blows to our system and to our country’s influence around the globe. It also requires great faith in our capacity for restoration despite the readiness of the president’s allies to place his survival above the health of our polity.

As Dionne concludes,

The United States does have extraordinary gifts for self-correction. But we must face the fact that Trump is accelerating us toward the breaking point. No matter how confident we are in our resilience, we should not imagine otherwise. Not even Mueller has a button on his desk he can press to get us out of this without scars.

Here are a few other fine pieces:

In “Donald Trump’s Year of Living Dangerously: It’s worse than you think” Politico’s Susan B. Glasser details how Trump’s ignorance, and his indifference to that ignorance, has led diplomats to call him: “insane,” “catastrophic,” “terrifying,” “incompetent” and “dangerous.”

Evan Osnos’s article in the New Yorker reveals how Trump cites a Chinese think tank that views the Trump administration as comprised of hostile “cliques,” with the most powerful being the “Trump family clan.” They further describe it using the term “jiatianxia,” which means “to treat the state as your possession.”

As the Brookings Institution Benjamin Wittes wrote recently, in a particularly chilling yet still hopeful read that

The president of the United States—as John Bellinger warned as early as December 2015 and as I elaborated on in March of 2016—remains the principal threat in the world to the national security of the United States. His aspirations are as profoundly undemocratic and hostile to the institutions of democratic governance as they have ever been. He announces as much in interview after interview, in tweet after tweet. The president has not changed, and he will not change. Whether he has grown or will grow is not even an interesting question.

Consider that Trump has already this year called on the Justice Department to “finally act” against Huma Abedin and James B. Comey. Needless to say, prosecuting political enemies is what authoritarians do.

Jonathan Chaidt’s “2018 Will Be a Fight to Save Democracy,” points to Trump’s
recent interview with The New York Times in which he spoke admiringly of autocratic tactics like using law enforcement for political ends. “The president,” as Chait points out, “explained his belief that the Department of Justice on principle ought to cover up crimes by the president and his administration.” Trump clearly believes that he is above the law.

I also encourage you to purchase a new book that will be published in a few weeks titled, How Democracies Die written by two Harvard political scientists. The book’s promotional material states, “a bracing, revelatory look at the demise of liberal democracies around the world — and a road map for rescuing our own.”

I could go on but I caution all my readers, especially young ones, to carefully monitor this situation. It is easy not to care if African Americans or Native Americans are denied the rule of law. But an autocratic state threatens all of us eventually, even its privileged children. When the dignity of others is abused, yours can be too.

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5 thoughts on ““We’re rushing toward the breaking point” ~ E.J. Dionne

  1. Yes, there’s definitely a sense in this country that we are approaching a crisis. It underlies many of the news items I read. The reporter attempts to stay within the confines of “just the facts, ma’am”, but the sense of dread shines through the words. The upcoming election will be the acid test of democracy in America. Will Americans rise up and loudly declare that the abuses of Mr. Trump and the Republican Congress have gone too far?

    We already know that the 2018 midterm elections will show a big Democratic resurgence. The Republicans have abandoned hope of retaining control of the House; they are concentrating their hopes on the Senate. In any other election, the fact that 22 of the 33 seats up for re-election are Democrats would insure a Republican gain. Yet commentators on all sides are warning that it’s too early to tell whether the Republicans will hold the Senate. The Democrats really do have a shot at gaining the Senate. If they do, they will surely impeach Mr. Trump.

    I believe that, if Mr. Trump fires Mr. Mueller, he will insure that the Democrats sweep both Houses of Congress. The Republicans’ best hope is that either 1) Mr. Mueller produces damning evidence against Mr. Trump, thereby permitting an impeachment, or 2) Mr. Trump fires Mr. Mueller, also permitting an impeachment. If they do manage to impeach the President, they might dampen the outrage against them by just enough to retain the Senate.

  2. I’ve never felt such a long last feeling of mourning, that’s about as best as I can describe how I’ve felt this past year. I’ve read some works of the Lost Generation mourning the waste and losses from WWI and I think that comes closest to capturing that emotion.

  3. I can still remember watching the election returns late into the night and feeling intense pain at the loss of a country. And to think that the educated among us have only one vote, just like all the low information voters.

  4. I’ve long been an “independent” voter, voting my conscience (living in California that’s a luxury I can afford), as I believe that the Democrat and Republican parties are two sides of the same coin in a good cop/bad cop sort of way. However, in being keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s, his administration’s, and the Republican held houses of congress’ shenanigans since the Trump ascendancy I am now most definitely in the Democrat’s camp. The “bad cop” has definitely gone insane (to put it mildly) and is an extreme danger to not just America, but to the world at large (much more dangerous than usual). At 54 I’m having fears that I thought I’d left behind in my youth living under the nuclear umbrella.

  5. “…I believe that the Democrat and Republican parties are two sides of the same coin”

    The Democratic Party is no longer one side of the same coin; it is now a clearly defined alternative to the GOP. The Republican Party is feckless without the Soviet Union to fight– China is no replacement for the Soviets as an enemy. The Soviet Union was an enemy for 45 years, and when it ceased, so did GOP unity.
    And without Reagan, the GOP are as sheep without a shepherd.

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