Given our current political climate, I realize that I took a relatively stable political system for granted most of my life. While the American government has always been characterized by corruption and immorality, I never feared it as I do now. Our government is becoming what can only be described by words like autocracy, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, fascism. As a further warning for what I’ve been writing about for the past few years, I want to draw my readers’ attention to two recent articles.
The first is long and complex but it is the single best essay on the danger of the Trump regime. I won’t summarize it except to say that it highlights, among other things, how the good, qualified, patriotic people are being expunged and coerced from government and being replaced by sycophants, grifters, degenerates, fanatics, and ideologues. The article, written by George Packer, appeared recently in the Atlantic and can be found below.
The second article is, “Former Bush White House lawyer Richard Painter: ‘Trump will grab as much power as he possibly can’: Former GOP ethics lawyer Richard Painter says Trump is the “American Nero,” and democracy is in extreme danger” by CHAUNCEY DEVEGA. Here is a brief summary.
Devega sets the stage for his interview with Richard Painter like this,
Trump and his regime have ushered in an Orwellian reality where truth itself is under siege, fully mated with a kakistocracy and plutocracy. The federal judiciary has been filled with Trump’s unqualified sycophants. Trump and Attorney General William Barr make threats against judges who do not do their bidding. Career government employees and other experts have been purged and replaced with unqualified
Republicans have effectively declared Trump a king or emperor by “exonerating” him in an impeachment show trial in the U.S. Senate. Right-wing Christian nationalists view him as a godlike figure, the “Chosen One.”
Are there any limits left on Donald Trump’s assault on the rule of law and democracy? Could Trump order his political “enemies,” such as leaders of the Democratic Party, arrested and sent to prison? After the impeachment show trial, is Trump now the de facto king of America? …
In an effort to answer these questions and other Devega spoke with Painter, who was White House chief ethics counsel under George W. Bush. He is now a frequent political commentator and analyst, a professor of corporate law at the University of Minnesota, host of “The Politics Podcast With Richard Painter, and author of several books, including:
and his new book, co-authored with Peter Golenbock, is
You can read the conversation between Devega and Painter at the above link but I’d summarize Painter’s responses by saying that he is very worried. For example, in answer to Devega’s question about Republicans agreeing with Alan Dershowitz arguing that Donald Trump is a king, that Trump’s personal interests are the country’s interests if he says they are, and therefore, Donald Trump cannot break the law, Painter’s response is chilling:
This is the great risk to our republic, and indeed this is what happened to the Roman Republic. The senators were elected by the rich people — but they were elected. They were senators and they had considerable power. And then, as the Roman Empire grew, they granted more power to the consuls. A republic transformed itself over about 150 to 200 years into a dictatorship or empire, where the leader had absolute power. Nobody stopped it. This is a lesson in how over time a republic, such as America, can be turned into a dictatorship.
Of course, a second example was the Weimar Republic in Germany, where over about 15 years a republic was turned into a dictatorship. In a matter of months after Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor, he consolidated executive power very quickly under Article 48 of the German constitution, which said the president and the chancellor could do anything they want if there’s an emergency. And then of course all a leader needed to do was declare an emergency and then it’s game over. Peter Golenbock and I wrote “America Nero” precisely because we don’t want there to be a third example of a republic becoming a dictatorship. The United States will become a dictatorship if we keep going along this path with Donald Trump.
And Painter’s answers to questions about Trump’s threats against the free press, free speech, private citizens, his threat to remain in office and punish his political opponents, the possibility of his declaring his opposition illegal, imprisoning opponents, and shutting down media critical of him, are equally disturbing. I urge you to read the entire article.
For more on a related topic, I urge my audience to read Devega’s “Trump’s authoritarian assault on democracy continues: What lies ahead? Fascism scholar Ruth Ben-Ghiat: If Trump wins again, America will be “ready for full-on authoritarian rule.”
Author’s Note. There has always been political evil and corruption. To live in a state with limited political corruption is the exception, not the rule. But is doesn’t imply ought in this case, and it is sad to see the degradation of a political system right before your eyes.
For those interested, the Corruption Perceptions Index published annually since 1995 by Transparency International, ranks countries “by their perceived levels of public level corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.” The CPI defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit.” Here are the top 10 countries according to there 2018 rankings:
2. New Zealand
3. (tie) Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore
9. (tie) Canada, Luxembourg