Are those fears of the U.S. moving toward autocracy legit or nonsense?

Photo: Anthony Moretti 18July2016

Photo: Anthony Moretti 18July2016

Donald Trump’s critics are in full throat. The latest example of their disgust with the president who has been on the job for 11 days came late Monday, when Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

For Trump’s opponents, it was clear evidence that the president wouldn’t listen to a woman saying that his immigration ban would likely not pass Constitutional scrutiny and therefore ought not be enforced.

The Hill reported that Democrats described his actions as a massacre, and a move that

…lawmakers are comparing…to President Nixon’s 1973 purge of an independent prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. The ouster of Archibald Cox sparked the resignation of several top administration officials –– Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus –– in an episode known as the Saturday Night Massacre.

“President Trump has commenced a course of conduct that is Nixonian in its design and execution and threatens the long-vaunted independence of the Justice Department,” said Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), senior Democratic on the House Judiciary Committee.

Politico added that Trump’s decision to shut out the Republican leadership as he prepared the so-called Muslim Ban also hacked off Capitol Hill. It noted

It’s extremely rare for administration officials to circumvent Republican leadership and work directly with congressional committee aides. But the House Judiciary Committee has some of the most experienced staffers when it comes to immigration policy.

For critics, firing a woman for dissent — albeit a quite public display of it — and ignoring your own party’s leaders are tantamount to authoritarian rule. But, remember, Trump’s detractors also can point to seeking felony charges against journalists who did nothing wrong, sending aides to Voice of America two days after that agency criticized him and using his press secretary to tell diplomats to get on board with the president’s program or to get out as examples of a man who demands total loyalty.

But do all of these examples legitimately point to America becoming a less democratic nation? Or, is it possible that Trump, who has run his businesses his way for more than 40 years, is still learning the art of the political deal?

For The Atlantic, the answer is America’s potential slide into authoritarianism is real. It devoted its cover story to the threat. For proof, the article’s author states weakening democracy is evident around the world.

Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Worldwide, the number of democratic states has diminished. Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated.

Whew! We need to catch our breath. Lots of opinions and lots of links to sift through. And as we do, we should consider what the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg is suggesting: Perhaps journalism itself has contributed to this idea that the president is out of control.

[L]iberal ideas and interpretations of the facts sail through while inconvenient facts and conservative interpretations send up ideological red flags. Think of editors like security guards at a military base. They tend to wave through the people they know and the folks with right ID badges. But when a stranger shows up, or if someone lacks the right credential, then the guards feel like they have to do their job.

Relax, Goldberg thinks conservative reporters are guilty of the same mistake, although

I think this is something of a golden opportunity for quality conservative journalism. Based on what has transpired so far, much of the mainstream media can’t be trusted to respond proportionately or accurately to Trump. And, based on what has transpired so far, neither can big swaths of the entertainment wing of the right-wing media. They will, Pravda-like, announce that each new Trumpian wheat harvest has exceeded all expectations, for quite a while it seems.

Ah, yes, Pravda. That beacon of integrity. Never mind, I digress.

The levers of democracy remain in place. The incomplete list of such levers includes a functioning and free media system; a judiciary that acts independently from the executive branch; protests that don’t end with police crackdowns; and open elections. However, this president must show his support for these mechanisms, especially when they don’t say or do something in accordance with his beliefs.

To this point, he’s shown no tolerance for dissent. That’s not how the President of the United States should act.

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This entry was posted in democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, Investigative journalism, Journalism, leadership, media and government, media and politics, protests, Trump administration. Bookmark the permalink.

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