Autocratic leadership, i.e., authoritarian leadership, is
characterized by individual control over all decisions with little input from
group members. All Donald Trump knows how to do is be an autocrat. That’s how
he ran his business. That’s how he is trying
to run our democracy.
Thus, it was no surprise that he glommed onto Steve Bannon’s
(remember him?) “deconstruct the administrative state” approach to government.
It allowed him to appoint cabinet heads and EPA administrators not only openly
hostile to the missions of their agencies but who agree[d] with his diminished view of the agencies. It
should also not have been surprising that he made them “acting”
cabinet members and agency heads. This way he
has more control, and the Senate cannot, in public view, scrutinize their lack
of capabilities through the confirmation process.
As troubling as this perversion of our agencies is, these
attacks were just a beginning. Trump’s real agenda is deconstructing our democracy. In this regard, he’s attacked the CIA
and the FBI, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller over his investigation and report.
He’s disregarded the emoluments clause of the Constitution prohibiting him from
profiting from his office. He has openly attacked both the 1st and 14th
Amendments (fake news and birthright citizenship) and so much more. It’s not
just that he’s ignorant about government and the Constitution, autocracy is antithetical to democracy.
Our system, the separation of powers among three equal
branches of government, is set up to defend against this kind of assault:
either or both the Congress and/or the courts has the power to stop it.
Republican control of both the Senate and White House has neutralized the
Congress. The courts, however, despite the Republicans stacking the judiciary,
are holding the line against our autocratic president.
Federal judges have ruled against
the Trump administration some 63 times over the past two years. This is an
extraordinary record of defeat that has stopped a lot of his attacks on the
environment and immigration. In doing this, the courts have pointed out that
Trump officials failed to follow the rules of democratic governance, including
providing facts and legitimate explanations for policy
Court victories have included: stopping
him from diverting $2.5 billion from the Pentagon budget to build “the
wall,” overruling his attempt to block anti-Trump Twitter users, allowing Democratic lawmakers to proceed
with their lawsuit accusing the president of violating an anti-corruption
provision of the Constitution with his private business dealings, blocking
his Administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA), et al.
Donald Trump’s response to these rulings is to have a
tantrum, labeling them: “a disgrace,” “not the law,” ”
On the other hand, in the process of this judicial defense
of our system, a unique champion for the independence of the judiciary has
emerged — Chief Justice John Roberts.
In a very rare public statement, the Chief Justice said: the
U.S. doesn’t have “Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton
judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges … The
independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.” And,
when our president tried to pervert the Census, by adding a citizenship
question, the Chief Justice, writing for the majority, said the rationale
the Trump administration gave for including the question (protection of the Voting
Rights Act) was contrived: “a pretext, and that accepting it would require
the court to have a naiveté from which ordinary citizens are free … . If judicial
review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than
the explanation offered … for the action taken … in this
The ultimate check on the president’s behavior is, of course,
the “ballot box.” “We the people” in 2020 will have the
power to remove this man from office thereby stopping his autocratic attack on
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